SEATTLE -- Hundreds of same-sex couples across Washington state started picking up marriage licenses Thursday as a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage took effect.
King County, the state's largest, opened the doors to its auditor's office in Seattle just after midnight to start distributing licenses. But hundreds of people had lined up hours earlier, snaking around the building on a chilly December night. By Thursday afternoon, more than 450 licenses had been issued in Seattle, where the mood was festive overnight.
"We waited a long time. We've been together 35 years, never thinking we'd get a legal marriage. Now I feel so joyous I can't hardly stand it," said 85-year-old Pete-e Petersen, who with her partner, 77-year-old Jane Abbott Lighty, were the first to get a license.
Washington state now joins several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed.
Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages became valid in Washington, when the law took effect.