City and county officials prepare for happy first wave of same-sex couples
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
King County Executive Dow Constantine is looking forward to December 6.
It is on that day that he will open the County Recorder's Office at 12:01 a.m. - immediately upon certification of the November 6 election - to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
'I don't want couples to wait a minute longer than legally necessary to get the rights that voters have recognized,' Constantine told SGN. 'I will personally sign the first marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m.'
The move will make King County the first jurisdiction in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on voter approval. Washington already made history when its voters joined those in Maryland and Maine to approve marriage equality initiatives on Election Day. The laws in those states will not take effect until January, however. Six other states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont - and the District of Columbia already allow same-sex marriage, but their laws were enacted either by legislative bodies or court rulings.
Under Washington state law, couples must wait three days before the actual marriage ceremony may be performed.
The Recorder's Office is located in the King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle (500 4th Ave.). Couples may start lining up at the James Street entrance (on the building's north plaza) at 10 p.m. An official queuing area will be designated on the plaza. For people with mobility issues, an accessible entrance will be available on 4th Avenue, and individuals will be directed to the plaza. Couples will be issued licenses on a first-come, first-served basis.
As previously announced, the Recorder's Office will remain open on December 6 until 6:30 p.m. to meet expected demand. All couples within the official queuing area at 4:30 p.m. will be served, however long it takes.
On Friday, December 7, the office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Couples will be able to line up starting at 6:30 a.m. All couples within the official queuing area at 4:30 p.m. will be served.
On Saturday, December 8, the Recorder's Office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The lineup will begin at 6:30 a.m., and all couples within the official queuing area at 2:30 p.m. will be served.
All couples, regardless of gender, seeking a marriage license on these three days will need to wait in line. To help reduce delays, couples are encouraged to download a marriage license application from www.kingcounty.gov/marriage and bring the completed form with them when they apply.
In case of inclement weather on any of these three days, check local media or www.kingcounty.gov for information.
CEREMONIES AT CITY HALL
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said November 16 that City Hall will open for wedding ceremonies in its gorgeous lobby on Sunday, December 9 - the first day same-sex couples with licenses will actually be able to wed. Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for McGinn, said eight municipal judges have agreed to donate their time to marry couples between noon and 5 p.m. that day.
'I'm just really happy that this has worked out and we have these wonderful art pieces as backdrops for people to get married in front of,' McGinn told Seattle Gay News. 'New York and San Francisco had similar efforts when marriage equality became available to them. Getting married at City Hall is going to be a lasting memory for these couples. I know it will have a positive impact on me - this is very historic and a great time to be mayor.'
In addition, The Stranger, a Seattle weekly, is working with scenic artists to create four tasteful pop-up wedding chapels in the lobby of City Hall.
When asked if any of his Gay friends were planning to get married at City Hall on December 9, McGinn joked, 'Not that I know of yet,' explaining that although he has a good number of LGBTQ friends, none of them have come forward to say they would participate in the public ceremonies downtown.
AN EARLY SUPPORTER
McGinn told SGN that watching the history around the issue of the freedom to marry helped prepare him for how he would vote on the issue, 'although I never dreamed it would be this fast,' he said.
The mayor's support for marriage equality was never a secret. Unlike President Obama and Gov. Christine Gregoire, both of whom came out in full support of same-sex marriage only recently, McGinn had stated his views on the subject well before the Washington Marriage Equality Bill was introduced in January.
'I am thrilled that this happened in Washington because it really advertises one of our greatest strengths, which is the fact that you can come to live and work in Washington - Seattle in particular - and be who you want and identify as who you truly are, and find a supportive community waiting for you,' he said.
'It's just incredibly historic. Marriage equality is finally a reality in Washington state and our residents will be able to have their ceremony at City Hall. On a personal level that just makes me feel really good about the progressive and equality-minded people that call Seattle home.'
MARRIAGE LICENSING INFO
Below is general information on marriage licensing, the requirements for obtaining a license, and things to keep in mind as couples prepare for this important day. This information is also available at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
Applying in person
Both parties must be present to obtain a marriage license in person. Save time by downloading and completing an application at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage. Bring the completed application, photo ID, and the $64 fee (cash or local check, no debit or credit cards). The license will be issued at that time, but does not become valid until a three-day waiting period has passed. Applicants do not need witnesses, blood tests, birth certificates, or divorce papers to apply. The application process takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
Both applicants must be unmarried and at least 18 years old or otherwise able to meet the age requirements. Same-sex couples do not have to be previously registered domestic partners to apply for a marriage license, but if a same-sex couple has registered, they must indicate that on their license application. They will also have to pay the $64 application fee.
Applicants may not be more closely related than second cousins, whole- or half-blood.
Seventeen-year-olds may only apply if their parent or legal guardian submits a notarized statement of consent or the applicant is legally emancipated and takes a court-certified copy of the emancipation document with them to apply.
Applicants under the age of 17 may apply if the age requirement is waived by a superior court judge of the county in which one of the parties lives. Each party to the marriage who is under 17 must present a waiver specifically naming them.
Previously divorced applicants do not need a copy of their divorce papers to apply for a new marriage license. A divorce must be final and filed before applying for a marriage license. Under no circumstances may a person apply for a marriage license before they are divorced.
Marriage license applicants do not have to reside in Washington, nor do they need to be U.S. citizens. A marriage license purchased from any county in Washington can be used to get married anywhere in the state. Couples do not have to apply for a marriage license in the county where they live, nor do they need to apply for their marriage license in the county where the wedding ceremony will take place. However, a marriage license obtained in Washington may not be used to get married in another state or country.
Applicants are not required to have a U.S. Social Security number to obtain a marriage license. However, one of the marriage license forms requires either a Social Security number or the applicant's signature on a declaration that they do not have a number. This will not affect the couple's ability to receive a marriage license.
When and where licenses may be used
Washington marriage licenses become valid for use on the third day following application and are then valid for 60 days. For example, if an application is made on Thursday, the first day the marriage license can be used is Sunday. The last day it can be used is 60 days later. If the wedding ceremony does not take place within this time period, the couple will need to apply for a new license. Under no circumstances can the three-day waiting period be waived.
If a couple applies for their marriage license less than three days before their established wedding date, they will need to have a separate ceremony within the period the license is valid in which the parties assent or declare, in the physical presence of the officiant and at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses. The marriage license forms will be completed and signed using this date.
A Washington state marriage license can only be used to get married within the state. A wedding ceremony on a marine vessel must be in Washington jurisdictional waters.
Who may perform a wedding ceremony?
The following officials are authorized to conduct weddings:
o Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court
o Judges of the Washington State Court of Appeals
o Judges of superior courts, and superior court commissioners in Washington
o Judges of courts of limited jurisdiction (e.g., district courts, municipal courts) in Washington
o Any regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest, of any church or religious denomination (a minister from a church in another state may perform a wedding ceremony in Washington, with no registration requirement)
Washington does not 'license' anyone to perform weddings. If a minister or priest is recognized as ordained or granted the power to perform weddings by their religious organization, that person is allowed to do so in Washington state.
A ship captain may not perform a wedding ceremony simply by virtue of being a ship captain. However, if the captain meets one or more of the above requirements, then he or she may do so.
Neither the couple nor the two witnesses may officiate the wedding ceremony, even if they are otherwise authorized to do so.
State law does not specify a minimum age for witnesses, but witnesses to a civil contract are deemed competent for this purpose usually at the age of 18. If applicants wish to have persons under the age of 18 witness the ceremony, it is recommended that they have two other witnesses who are over 18 also observe the exchange of vows and sign the marriage certificates. More than two witnesses may sign the certificates.
Proxy weddings (where someone else stands in for one of the parties) are not recognized in Washington. Both parties must be physically present before the two witnesses and the officiant for the ceremony to be performed.
A wedding ceremony must take place. Simply applying for and obtaining a marriage license does not make you married.
A minimum of five persons must be present at the wedding ceremony: the officiant, the couple, and two witnesses. The officiant cannot also serve as a witness.
The parties must assent or declare, in the physical presence of the officiant solemnizing the marriage and at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses.
Preparing and returning forms
Full directions for completing marriage license forms and filing them after the ceremony can be found at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
Within 30 days of the wedding ceremony, the officiant must return the completed Washington State Department of Health certificate to King County Marriage Licensing, King County Administration Building, 500 4th Ave., Suite 311, Seattle, WA 98104.
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