Same-sex Couples Say “I do” in Washington State for First Time

Sunday marked the first day same-sex couples can legally tie the knot in the state of Washington.

Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples by a November vote. Photo: Andrea Parrish – Geyer/Flickr

Washington’s law went into force on Thursday, and numerous gay couples lined up to fill all the necessary documents.

On Sunday, after a three-day waiting period required of all marriages expired, the first same-sex weddings began.

Judge Mary Yu wedded a dozen couples at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. An isider revealed that the fist union to marry were Sarah and Emily Cofer, a couple who have been together for more than ten years.

The judge agreed on working all night long to marry the gay couples as she felt they should not have to wait any longer to tie the knot, her bailiff and law clerk Takao Yamada said.

Yamada told Reuters he was decorating Yu’s courtroom with “just a couple of flowers, nothing over the top. It’s still a courtroom on Monday.”

To accommodate the expected flury of weddings, Yu was set to wed 140 couples in a mass celebration later on Sunday morning.

The news comes as American public opinion has been shifting to allow same-sex marriages. Six U.S. states and the District of Columbia decided on legalizing gay marriages, while another 31 states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

According to a Pew Research Center October’s survey, 49 percent of Americans favored allowing gay marriage, with 40 percent opposed.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to claim that same-sex couples should be able to wed.

Yesterday saw the news that the U.S. High Court agreed to review two challenges to federal and state laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

In a private meeting on Friday the justicies took into consideration requests to review seven cases which refer to gay marriages.

Five of them are included into the federal marriage law, one to California’s gay marriage ban and another to an Arizona law against domestic partner benefits.

The high court is expected to take up at least one of the challenges to the federal marriage law, given that two federal appeals courts had found the law unconstitutional.

Less clear was what the court would do with the California gay marriage ban.

“Taking both a states’ rights case like Prop 8, and a case involving Congress’s authority in the DOMA … suggests that the court is ready to take on the entire issue, not just piecemeal it,” said Andrew Pugno, a lawyer for the individuals defending California’s gay marriage ban.

Civil rights activists, focused on efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, said that the court’s decision was an important breakthrough in their bid for equal rights.

“It is time for the Supreme Court to strike down this unconstitutional statute once and for all,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represents Windsor.

However, the fact that the U.S. High Court is hearing the cases doesn’t mean that it is going to ratify same-sex marriage.

As gay rights activists and opponents predicted in a series of interviews, judges might simply use these cases to find that there is no constitutional protection for same-sex marriage.

“There is no question that it is a risk,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. “If they nationalize it and reject it, that’s going to take decades to come back to the court.”

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