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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Washington joins 6 states in legalizing marriage for same-sex couples

OLYMPIA, Wash. — In a crowded reception room surrounded by applauding gay couples and lawmakers, and with media from around the country looking on, Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday signed landmark legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state.

The event brings Washington in line with six other states and the District of Columbia that allow gays to marry.

With the signing, Washington also becomes the first state in the country to strike down state law that specifically limits marriage to one man and one woman.

Spectators began chanting “thank you” as Gregoire entered the room.

“We are here today to make history in this great state,” she said.

“This is a very proud moment … It’s a day that historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights in this state, a day when we did what was right … just and fair. We did it together, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old.”

Gregoire, a Democrat, announced in June she would support same-sex marriage, after years of ambivalence. She recalled her personal journey in reaching that decision, which required her to go against the teachings of her Catholic faith.

Monday’s signing doesn’t mean that same-sex couples in Washington can marry immediately. Changes in the state’s marital law won’t take effect for 90 days, until June 7 — at the earliest.

Opponents of same-sex marriage intended to quickly file a referendum aimed at repealing the law, and if they are able to collect enough valid signatures — 120,577 — between now and June 6, the law will be put on hold until the November election.

Those details, however, seemed far from the minds of couples who were here for Monday’s event.

Among them were Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, a lesbian couple from Seattle, who spent the first half of their 35 years together hiding from others their true feelings for one another.

“It’s a wonderful day,” said Petersen, 84. “We didn’t think it would be coming this soon, but we are here and we are so proud of the governor and the Legislature.”

Seven years ago, as part of their coming-out journey, the women held a ceremony at Seattle First Baptist Church where, in the presence of 150 friends, each pledged to be the other’s partner for life.

In the ensuing years, as same-sex marriage was becoming legal elsewhere, the women thought about going to Canada to officially marry — but instead chose to wait. When they finally did marry, they said, they wanted it to be in Washington.

“We feel very strongly about that,” Petersen said. “We love this state, and we love this city. And what has happened on our journey here is most wonderful.”

“We still pinch ourselves,” said Lighty, 76.

Keri Stout of Seattle was joined by her two children — Kaelin Stout, 7, and Cameron Stout, 4 — for the bill signing.

Stout, 40, said she was married for 10 years to a man, but the two divorced when she told him that she was a lesbian. She said she was at the signing because she wants to have the rights she had when she was in a heterosexual marriage.

“To have the rights in my former life and not being able to have the rights now, isn’t a discrimination I was prepared for,” Stout said, taking countless pictures and wearing a shirt that read “Legalize Gay.”

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