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Quiet Scenes As Same-Sex Couples Obtain Marriage Licenses

OLYMPIA, Wash. and KENNEWICK, Wash. – In Washington’s capital city, the county auditor was also prepared for a rush of marriage-license applicants. Instead, it felt like business as usual. Just one couple got showed up.

Deborah Dulaney and Diane McGee dressed warmly and brought an umbrella. They figured they’d be waiting out in the rain to get a wedding license on day one.

“Then we just walk right in," Diane says. "It was nice, but I’m kind of disappointed. I wanted to party.”

Diane is retired from IBM. Deborah works for Amazon. They’ve been together for 16 years. In 2004, the couple stood in line in San Francisco to get married. But as they waited the California Supreme Court intervened.

“Never made it in the door," Diane says. Deborah adds, “The line was long, they stopped. But we had a lot of fun.”

Deborah didn’t think Washington voters would uphold the state’s new same-sex marriage law. Now she actually holds a license that allows her to join in “lawful wedlock” with Diane.

The couple planned to celebrate with a Mimosa brunch. And then Deborah had to go to work.

Excited as they are, Deborah and Diane say Washington’s law is just another stop on a long road. Turns out Diane has a daughter in Virginia who’s in a same-sex relationship. But she can’t get married there. They also hope President Obama will lead an effort to have the federal government recognize same-sex married couples.

The scene was also quiet at the Benton County Annex in Kennewick. Workers sat at the ready to hand out marriage licenses, but only a few people showed up. But one couple that did got their paperwork after 26 years together.

Diane Marsh and Linda McGregor are both 61 years old. They finish each other’s sentences, dress alike and can make decisions together silently by reading each other’s faces. They’ve gone to lawyers to make sure they have many of the legal rights as a married couple, and have considered each other as a spouse for many years.

But picking up their Washington state marriage license is still a huge deal.

“It’s just a legality, it’s just a formality. You do that because you are trying to cover up the emotions that are there," McGregor says while holding back tears. "It’s far more than that … at our age it’s a sense of security that we would have never had.”

Many of the Benton County employees wiped their eyes with Kleenex, gave hugs and handshakes to the couple. Marsh and McGregor plan to marry at Seattle City Hall on Sunday.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.
Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."