As of 4 p.m. Thursday, more than 760 marriage licenses had been issued statewide to same-sex couples, with more than half of them -- 459 -- being issued in King County (487 as of 6 p.m.).
But Washington's new marriage law continues to draw criticism from opponents.
"It's not a celebration, I see an element of sadness, a nation that's turned it's back on God and is going a different way," said Joe Fuiten, pastor at Cedar Park Church in Bothell.
Fuiten said he hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in and overturn the law. In the meantime, he said he will continue to preach that marriage is "between a man and a woman" -- including at his service this Sunday, the first day same-sex couples can get married.
With the passade of R-74 last month, Washington state joined several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. R-74 had asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) in February but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election. Nearly 54 percent of voters approved the measure.
The law doesn't require religious organizations or churches to marry gay or lesbian couples. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages became valid in the state on Thursday, when the law took effect.
Washington was joined by Maine and Maryland last month to become the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states -- New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont -- and the District of Columbia, which had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.
Couples in Maryland also started picking up marriage licenses Thursday, though their licenses won't take effect until Jan. 1.
"I really imagined my life as being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day come about and to be a part of it, it means everything to me," said Kim Hinken, who was the first person to get a marriage license in Anne Arundel County, Md.'s Circuit Court. The 52-year-old Edgewater resident said she has waited nearly 10 years to become legally married to Adrianne Eathorne.
Maine's law takes effect Dec. 29. There's no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.
In addition to private ceremonies that will start taking place across Washington state this weekend, Seattle City Hall will open for several hours Sunday, and several local judges are donating their time to marry more than 140 couples starting at 10 a.m. In Olympia, a group of local judges has offered to perform wedding ceremonies just after midnight on Sunday at the Thurston County courthouse.
Washington state has had a domestic partnership law in place since 2007. The initial law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called "everything but marriage" law that was ultimately upheld by voters later that year.
This year, lawmakers passed the law allowing gay marriage, and Gregoire signed it in February. Opponents gathered enough signatures for a referendum, putting the law on hold before it could take effect.
(Note: The photo of the two bearded men applying for a marriage license that appears in the video associated with this story was used with permission from Meryl Schenker.)