John McCluskey and Rudy Henry signed their marriage license application this morning and made history.
They became the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in Pierce County. A crowd of about 50 people cheered and applauded as gay and lesbian couples left the Pierce County Auditor’s office with their marriage certificates in hand.
“It’s just exciting,” said McCluskey, 76. “We never even thought it would get to this day.”
Henry, 78, said he was excited as well. “I couldn’t sleep very well,” he said.
After being a couple for nearly 54 years, McCluskey and Henry will get married Dec. 15 at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma.
Marriage licenses became available today after state Referendum 74 was certified. The first weddings won’t occur until Sunday because of the state’s three-day waiting period.
The auditor’s office opened early at 6:30 a.m. for the first couples to get their licenses. By 7:10 a.m., 28 couples had received licenses. By then, no more couples were waiting for licenses.
A group of supporters cheered each couple as they left with their license in hand. One man handed out pink and yellow roses.
Couples lined up minutes before the Pierce County Auditor’s Office started issuing the licenses at the County Annex.
Heather Kawamoto and Kay Lancaster were second in line with their 9-year-old daughter, Kayleigh Kawamoto, who sipped from a carton of milk. The Tacoma couple will get married Sunday in Tacoma.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Heather Kawamato, 38. “It’s the culmination of so many dreams and hopes.”
“It’s overwhelming, exciting and emotional,” said Lancaster, 51.
Auditor Julie Anderson guessed last week that 150 couples will apply for a marriage license on the first day. The Auditor’s Office is staying open for extended hours today and Friday and will be open for the weekend to accommodate an expected rush for licenses.
Anderson’s office handed out numbers Wednesday that determined the order of licenses doled out on today. She took that step so couples don’t have to camp overnight in their bid to become one of the first same-sex couples in Pierce County to receive a marriage license. Twenty couples reserved spots.
The first two couples were pre-selected. Nancy Mellor and Kariena Martonik, of University Place, were third.
Ann Dahl and Barbara Root were No. 4.
“It means that we’re finally starting to get equal rights with everyone else in the country,” said Dahl, 57, of Tacoma.
Her partner concurred.
“I think it’s finally a recognition of the civil rights we’ve essentially been denied for our lifetime,” said Root, 59.
Washington is the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.