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Flowers, festivities for same-sex couples who wed in Washington

December 08, 2012|By Andrew Khouri
  • Sue Hopkins, left, and Marji Lynn have been together 16 years. They plan to wed Sunday.
Sue Hopkins, left, and Marji Lynn have been together 16 years. They plan… (Marji Lynn )

Sue Hopkins is beyond excited. Sunday is her wedding day. Sleep, she said, likely won’t come Saturday night.

Hopkins, 63, and her fiancee, Marji Lynn, in her 50s, are among 140 couples scheduled to marry at Seattle City Hall on Sunday — the first day same-sex weddings will be held in Washington state.

Sunday, they said, a weight will be lifted from their shoulders: When they go out to eat, they will no longer be partners, but spouses. At work, they will be married. In social situations, others can more easily embrace them with the same love they have always felt toward each other.

“That has always felt just beyond reach,” Hopkins said.

Saturday was a day of preparation across Washington as the state and  same-sex couples readied for the weddings. Counties began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday after voters decided in November to legalize gay marriage. In Washington, marriage licenses are not valid for three days, which makes Sunday the first day weddings can be held.

King County, home to Seattle, issued a record number of marriage licenses Thursday: 489, most of which were to same-sex couples. The county said it issues an average of 75 to 100 marriage licenses each day.

In Seattle City Hall’s grand lobby, five raised platforms with flowers will greet the 140 couples who come to get married for free on Sunday. Sixteen judges will be on hand to officiate. When the newlyweds stroll down the steps of City Hall, they will be greeted by “food trucks, coffee and festivities,” a city website devoted to the day says.

Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, said the city had planned to hold only 80 weddings inside the hall, but those spots were quickly scooped up in “a day or so.” More judges volunteered their time, allowing more couples to take part.

“People have been working for a long time for this day where people are being treated equally,” Pickus said.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in February, but opponents gained enough signatures to hold a referendum, putting the law on hold. On Nov. 6, voters endorsed the  law 54% to 46%.

Maine and Maryland voters also legalized same-sex marriage Nov. 6, joining Washington as the first states to do so at the ballot box. Washington is the first of those states to hold gay marriages.

Hopkins, who has been with her fiancee for 16 years, said the couple will drive to City Hall on Sunday and finally tie the knot. They are scheduled to be one of the first five couples to get married there.

“We never really expected this was going to happen,” she said.

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