Photos by Steve Shay
Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen of West Seattle MADE history on Dec. 6 when they became the first same sex couple to have their marriage license signed by King County Executive Dow Constantine, left. KC Council Member Joe McDermott is pictured right. CLICK ON PHOTO FOR SLIDESHOW OR SEE GALLERY BELOW THE STORY. Photo by Steve Shay

Same-sex couples make history with marriage equality

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Amid a celebratory atmosphere approximately 250 couples led by West Seattleites Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen same sex couples came to the King County Courthouse to get their marriage licenses signed by King County Executive Dow Constantine just after midnight, Dec. 6. Crowded with media and family and friends the couples are celebrating a legal milestone made possible by the passage of Referendum 71 in the November election.

By 1:00 a.m., 237 numbered tickets – referred to by some as their “golden ticket” – had been distributed to those in line, and recorders had issued 71 marriage licenses.

The Executive signed the first licenses with one of the pens used by Governor Gregoire to sign the marriage equality bill into law on Feb. 13, soon after it had been approved by the Washington State Legislature. Opponents gathered petition signatures to block implementation of the law, but voters on Nov. 6 approved Referendum 74 to enact it. That vote was certified today by the Washington Secretary of State.

All the couples that were issued licenses today will have to wait until at least Sunday to make their marriage official, as Washington state requires a three-day waiting period.

Sen. Ed Murray

State Senator Ed Murray and partner Michael Shiosaki were at the King County Courthouse to show support. Murray was instrumental in the cause of marriage equality.

"I had the privilege and the pain of working on this for 17 years in the Legislature," said Sen. Murray. "Finally we turned around DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and won in the Legislature and won at the ballot. It's a great night, an historic night. Michael and I have been together for 21 years and we're going to wait until August on our 22nd anniversary to get married."

Added Murray, "I lived on 61st. St. as a kid and went to Alki Elementary, and Holy Rosary. Tim Cies (the former Deputy Mayor) and I were in the same first grade class."

KC Council Member Joe McDermott

"Couples I've talked to throughout the line are really excited about the opportunity to get their marriage license tonight, and get married as early as Sunday," said King County Council Member Joe McDermott, there with his longtime domestic partner Michael Culpepper. They plan to marry, but at a later date.

McDermott said of Jane and Pete-e, "I've known them over the last decade, everything from their work from the Women's Chorus to West Seattle politics and their involvement in the Referendum 71 campaign three years ago. So it's especially exciting to have them be the first couple to get their marriage license tonight."

Charlene Strong, Activist, Author

Charlene Strong, civil rights advocate and member of the Washington State Human Rights Commission, was also on hand giving hugs to friends and acquaintances waiting in line outside.

"Every one of us that shows the responsibility of what marriage means," she said. "I can only imagine it puts more pressure for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act federally. I just couldn't miss this after all the work we've been doing. As you know it's intensely personal for me that this is now happening and it's got a bitter-sweet component to it, but also I have been blessed with love again in my life and I am now a mother of a 10-month old girl. For me it's an affirmation of what I've been spending the last six years working on and I am very pleased, as you can imagine."

Alex Medonca

"This is not a good singles event," quipped Alex Medonca, clutching a pink rose while waiting with his partner in line. "Everybody here is pretty much already hooked up."

Robert Dlugosh with Don McKee of West Seattle

"We've lived in the same house on California Avenue since 1978," said Robert Dlugosh, an architect, there with his future husband Don McKee, a retired nurse. "We've actually scheduled our wedding for March 29 which means that the license we get today won't be good then because it's only good for 60 days so we'll need to get another one. But we didn't want to miss tonight."

State Rep. Jamie Pedersen

"I was the House prime sponsor of the (same-sex) marriage legislation," said a beaming, but modest State Rep. Jamie Pederson. "This is a very satisfying night. I was the lead volunteer lawyer for the Andersen case."

Wiki: Andersen v. King County (...) filed by eight Washingtonian lesbian and gay couples, who sued King County and the state of Washington for denying them marriage licenses under the state’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. The state supreme court ruled that banning gay marriage is constitutional in that it furthers the government interest in promoting procreation.

"Eight and a half years ago I came down this hallway with the six couples on the first day (followed by an addition two couples) that applied for marriage licenses and were turned down and that's what began the Andersen case," said Pedersen. "So to have the chance to come back here and be with the couples who will apply for, and receive, licenses to get married is very satisfying.

Added Pedersen, "I think one of the great things about getting to (same-sex) marriage the way we did with an incremental approach and over a period of years is that we've really created a path for a lot more states such as Oregon to know how they might be able to get from zero to full marriage equality in manageable steps."

Jane Abbot Lighty and and Pete-e Peterson

West Seattleites Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen became first couple to get their marriage licenses signed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

“In our marriage ceremony Sunday evening, both of us will be honored and privileged to represent not only ourselves but the greater community,” said Petersen, who is 85.

Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen of West Seattle will be first couple to have license signed.

The couple has been together 35 years and gained some attention when they appeared in an R-71 ad. They are co-founders of the Seattle Women’s Chorus and plan to marry during the Seattle Men’s Chorus concert on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Benaroya Hall.

Peterson said. “In our marriage ceremony Sunday evening, both of us will be honored and privileged to represent not only ourselves but the greater community.”

Peterson is 85 years old. She was born in Manhattan but grew up in a small Alabama town with her grandmother. She served five years in the Air Force as air-evac flight nurse during the Korean War.
Pete-e adopted her sister's daughter at almost three years old. She and Jane are proud grandparents of two grown granddaughters.

Lighty is 77 years old and was born in Fremont, Neb. but mostly grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and also has a nursing background.

Lighty said, “To have our 35 year loving relationship publicly honored and celebrated and have this be a legal marriage means everything to both of us.”

The other ten couples in the ceremonial first group were:

  • Brendon K. Taga and Jesse Page of Vashon Island
  • Amanda Beane and Anne Bryson-Beane of Seattle
  • Gabe Verdugo and Adam Forcier of Seattle
  • Brenda Bauer and Celia Castle of Seattle (Capitol Hill)
  • Neil Hoyt and Donald Glenn Jenny of Bellevue
  • Stuart Wilber and John Breitweiser of Seattle
  • Teri Bednarski and Saracristina Garcia of Tacoma
  • Pam Keeley and Claudia Gorbman of Seattle (Lakewood/Seward Park)
  • Dawn Rains and Heather Laird of Seattle
  • Dan Savage and Terry Miller of Seattle

The King County Recorder’s Office in downtown Seattle will stay open until 6:30 p.m. tonight to process marriage licenses for all couples. The office will reopen on Friday, Dec. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 8.

On Dec. 9, after the required three-day waiting period for those couples receiving marriage licenses on Dec. 6, 140 couples who have RSVP’d in advance will hold their wedding ceremonies in the Grand Lobby of Seattle’s City Hall.

Local judges have volunteered to officiate the weddings, artists have created beautiful displays in front of which couples will take their vows, and community members will gather on the building’s Fourth Avenue Plaza to celebrate the newly married couples as they emerge from City Hall.

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