News Column

Lesbians Win First Same-sex Marriage License

Dec 4, 2012

Brad Shannon


Two Lacey-area women who have been together 31 years will be the first of 10 same-sex couples to receive a marriage license just after midnight Thursday in Thurston County.

Lisa Brodoff, a Seattle University law professor, and Lynn Grotsky, a clinical social worker, plan a private civil wedding Dec. 23 in Olympia.

Their names were drawn first Monday at the Thurston County Auditor's Office from a small box filled with 15 couples' names -- giving them first nod when marriage licenses become available at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

"We're thrilled to have the first license. It's historical ... but it's great we can all share this together," Grotsky said later by telephone. "I'm just happy we get to sign a license and get married.''

Washington voters approved Referendum 74 a month ago, making Washington one of nine states plus the District of Columbia that allow or soon will recognize same-sex marriages. The new law takes effect Thursday -- with the first weddings allowed Sunday. The Department of Health approved new rules last week that let each participant in a marriage mark him or herself as bride, groom or spouse.

Advocates of same-sex marriage put out a news release outlining several events around the state to mark the historic date.

"It's very exciting," county Auditor Kim Wyman said after the names of 10 couples were drawn this afternoon. "This truly is a historic moment for Washington state, and we are certainly on the front end of change in attitudes and change in history."

Brodoff and Grotsky were featured in The Olympian and The News Tribune in 2009 during the R-71 campaign, which upheld the state's domestic partnership law, and they have long advocated for recognition of same-sex couples. The two women have an adult son and an adult daughter, both of whom were born to Brodoff.

The couple later were among the first in the country to receive a second-parent adoption involving same-sex parents, and Grotsky says their case was the first contested case involving a lesbian couple. In 2007, they also registered their domestic partnership on the state registry, the first year the state Legislature extended hospital visiting and other rights to same-sex couples.

A marriage certificate still won't secure federal rights related to Social Security benefits and other federal benefits of marriage, but Grotsky said she hopes the Washington law can be extended nationally. She noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing whether to hear arguments in an appeal related to California's marriage law.

After all these years of fighting for rights, Grotsky said it is the fact they will have a recognized marriage that counts.

"It's equal to everybody else. It really is -- when you try to go by a different name it really is second-class citizenship," she said. "We are in a committed partnership, and in our country we call that marriage. 'Domestic partnership' just doesn't do it ... It doesn't have any of the spiritual feel to it.''

Grotsky also joked that it was "a little silly after 31 years to be at this point" of considering marriage. "What are we going to say in our vows?" She also said she and Brodoff plan a larger community celebration -- "a big Jewish wedding at the temple," as she put it -- that will include family members from across the country.

"We are thrilled after 31 years to get to say 'I do,'" Brodoff said. "Even though we have said it many times to each other, we can say it to our community and get that recognition from our community.''

Wyman said her office staff decided to hold the lottery in order to grant what might become the first same-sex marriage permits anywhere in the state. King County also is issuing permits after midnight.

R-74 did have its critics, but Wyman said none of her staffers had any objections to issuing the permits.

After soliciting couples' names, they received 15 requests to be entered, and the formal drawing of names took place at a counter in her agency's offices at 1 p.m. On Monday. Wyman held a small paper box with the 15 couples' names so that licensing and recording manager Heather Hirotaka could draw out the first 10.

"We had heard that King County was going to be issuing the first marriage license in the state. Not that I am competitive, nor is my staff competitive (but) we thought, wait a second, there is no guarantee they would be first. Maybe we could issue the first license. So we started talking about it," Wyman said, describing the events that led to the decision to open the Auditor's Office from about 10 p.m. Wednesday until a bit past midnight Thursday.

"It's very exciting. This truly is a historic moment for Washington state, and we are certainly on the front end of change in attitudes and change in history," Wyman added.

The auditor plans to issue all 10 licenses "simultaneously right after midnight so they can all say they were the first couple issued a license in the whole state." But Wyman indicated that Brodoff and Grotsky would technically be first.

Source: (c)2012 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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