SEATTLE — The Castle-Bauer household moves to a familiar rhythm.
Celia Castle wakes before dawn on a school day, starts the coffee, feeds the pets, and fixes her daughters' lunches.
Bags filled with the day's necessities line the front hallway like sleeping watchdogs. Family photos cling to the refrigerator, and a to-do list sits by the stove.
Soon the house will fill with light and the sounds of 12-year-old Nicola and 9-year-old Robbie waking up. There will be school and work, choir and piano practice, and when it gets dark again everyone will gather around the dinner table and share at least one good thing about their day.
Small dramas punctuate their routine: a hamster escapes, a science project deadline looms, the aging plumbing expires.
But Tuesday will be different. They'll load up the minivan and head to Olympia, where lawyers will stand before the state Supreme Court and debate the family's fate in the cold language of constitutional law.
Then they'll wait for nine justices to decide whether Nicola and Robbie's two mommies can be married.
Brenda Bauer frowns as she pulls up to the curb in front of Nicola's school.
"There is a giant tree in the street," she says.
"That is not a tree, Mother, it's a branch," Nicola says.
The girls call Brenda and Celia Momma B and Momma C, or BB and CC, but Nicola has lately taken to "Mother," delivered in tones varying from frosty to fond.
"Well, I'm going to pick it up," says Brenda, who as Seattle's director of fleets and facilities feels a proprietary interest in city streets.
She moves the branch and says goodbye to Nicola, who offers a cheek to be kissed. Nicola then turns away and joins the flow of 7th-grade girls dressed in jeans, sneakers and sweatshirts.
Nicola's fondest wish is to live in the suburbs, where, she says, she would live in a brick house that looks exactly like every other brick house and no one would ever notice her. Her parents, who decorate the lawn of their funky, south Seattle rambler with plastic pink flamingos, cannot decide if this stems from their being lesbians or from Nicola's being 12.
Everything would be cool, Nicola says, if people just calmed down and didn't make such a big deal about it.
"After a life of not being anonymous, it would be nice to be anonymous," Nicola says wearily.
However, she acknowledges her parents' role as lead plaintiffs in Washington state's gay marriage lawsuit is "pretty cool." Not as cool as it would be for them to stop doing such mortifying things as talking to her friends when they drive the carpool, but cool nonetheless.
"It's like the civil rights movement," which she has been studying at school, Nicola says. "Martin Luther King was fighting for equal rights, and it's kind of the same vague idea. We're fighting for equal rights."
Brenda, 48, and Celia, 49, did not set out to become gay rights pioneers. They watched with interest, but little urgency, as gay marriage was legalized in British Columbia, Canada, in 2003, and then briefly in San Francisco last year. They wondered, should we go north? Go south? Or just wait until it hits Seattle?
When Oregon's Multnomah County started granting same-sex marriage licenses last spring, Brenda and Celia decided it was time. They waited three weeks to find a day clear of scheduling conflicts, when no one had a crucial soccer game or an important meeting at work.
Nicola remembers that they had to drive for "like, 20 hours" and then wait in "like, 20 lines."
Robbie thought the "I do" part in the judge's office was exciting.
They enjoyed a honeymoon lunch at a mall food court -- the only place everyone could find something they liked -- and then drove three hours back to Seattle so the girls wouldn't miss another day of school.
When they got home that night, Brenda and Celia ran back and forth through the yard as Nicola and Robbie pelted them with rose petals.
The Castle-Bauers' Oregon marriage license is in legal limbo now, along with the unions of 3,000 other gay couples who got married there last spring. Oregonians, along with voters in 10 other states, passed a ballot measure last November banning same-sex marriage. The fate of the Multnomah County marriages lies with the Oregon Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon.
While gay couples rushed to marry in San Francisco, Portland, Massachusetts and elsewhere, gay rights activists in Washington state were cautiously planning their next move. They decided to ask the courts to overturn a 1998 state law forbidding same-sex marriage.
The ACLU sought gay and lesbian pillar-of-the-community types across the state. A friend suggested Brenda and Celia, and they joined a list of plaintiffs that included a police officer, a judge, a college professor, a nurse and a high school teacher.
Celia, a Bellevue firefighter, had always been skeptical about marriage. One of the things she liked about being a lesbian was how it freed her from traditional gender roles.