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Catherine Anstett

Cars honked as they passed the crowd gathered at the King County Recorder's Office. At 11:15 p.m., there was already a long, cordoned-off

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PHOTOS: A Long Wait for Gay Marriage Licenses, But Worth It

Gay Marriage 9 Mug.jpg
Catherine Anstett

Cars honked as they passed the crowd gathered at the King County Recorder's Office. At 11:15 p.m., there was already a long, cordoned-off line of 209 same-sex couples waiting for the stroke of midnight to snag one of the first gay-marriage licenses issued in Washington state. A casual passerby would think a new Apple product was being released. A young man and woman stood nearby with three large thermoses filled with free coffee. The female in the duo said she came out to support and help the gathered throngs keep warm, since she neglected to do so during campaign season. It was chilly and gusty, but the crowd had a tangible electrical charge.

*See Also: Seattle Scraps Plan To Give $90 A Month Wedding Gift To Gay Workers Who Wed

The media was gathered first and led past the seven-member choir from Liberation United Church of Christ singing their support, a cappella and gospel-style, with a song which repeated the words "We are marching in the light of God." We entered the lobby (the Recorder's Office is at 4th and James, downtown) where a King County employee radioed upstairs to send the locked elevators down. Our bellhop of a guide offered a bit of humor on the vertical ride. "Going up. Housewares," he said.

Having arrived on the designated floor, we were further ushered into a large room where the issuing of Washington's first gay-marriage licenses would take place. The air was excited, joking and light as the camera crews set up and reporters took their places.

Possible Seattle mayoral candidate and state Senator Ed Murray was in attendance, as was state Representative Jamie Pedersen. King County Executive Dow Constantine issued and signed the marriage certificates for the first batch of ten or so couples, which included The Stranger's Dan Savage, whose presence was not mentioned in the press release.

The first couple to receive a certificate were two ladies. Pete-e Petersen, 85, dressed in a light blue turtleneck sweater, glasses, and dark blue pants with black shoes is the shorter of the two, maybe 5'4". Her soon-to-be-spouse is Jane Abbott Lighty, 77, who was dressed in a white sweater with a green collared undershirt and brown pants for the occasion. All in all, I wanted them to be my lesbian grandmothers. The two have been an active part of the gay community for decades, a fact that led the gay Municipal Court Judge Anne Levinson (Ret.), also in attendance, to nominate them first-in-line.

As midnight was about to strike, Constantine led the countdown. "Five, four, three, two, one...Happy marriage equality," he exclaimed. The crowd clapped and cheered. The couple, Petersen and Lighty, approached the podium.

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Catherine Anstett
Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen were the first couple to get their license. They have been together 35 years.

"Do you swear and affirm that the information on your application is true and correct," Constantine asked. As soon as Petersen and Lighty said yes, a person behind the desk entered their response and hit the print button. A mildly awkward situation arose as the respectful silence was broken up by a loud printer.

Having obtained what they had come for, the first couple answered a few questions. For the honeymoon, Petersen, who grew up in rural Alabama and spent five years in the Air Force as an air-evac flight nurse during the Korean War, and Lighty, originally of Fremont, Neb., and also a nurse, plan to spend a portion of chilly February island-hopping in Hawaii. When asked what was important about making their bond legal, Petersen answered, "That piece of paper, that marriage certificate, everyone understands that. It's marvelous."

"The magic of the whole thing is love," she added. "We must never forget that."

"We always wanted to get married," Lighty said. "We never thought it would happen in our lifetimes."

Judge Levinson stood to the side of Petersen and Lighty as they answered questions.

"We've been working on this a long time," she exhaled.

At 12:50 a.m., the crowd was still snaking outside the building. Two hundred thirty-five couples had shown up to retrieve their marriage licenses. The first weddings, by law, will be held December 9.

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