Same-sex couples in state start making wedding vows

MUKILTEO — Dale Hendrickson didn’t feel very emotional when he and his fiancé, Steven Ilg, picked up their marriage license.

He did Sunday when they tied the knot in a midday wedding in the historic Mukilteo Lighthouse.

“It’s hit me now,” Hendrickson said moments after exchanging vows with his partner of 20 years. “I didn’t think it was something that would ever be legal.”

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It wasn’t until last week when the state law allowing same-sex couples to marry went into effect. Because another state law requires a 72-hour waiting period, no couples could wed until Sunday.

At 12:01 a.m. Sunday the vows began in earnest.

Gay and lesbian couples married in churches, city halls and courthouses all across Washington in a statewide celebration of matrimonial emancipation wrought by the passage of Referendum 74 in last month’s election.

On Whidbey Island, Army Col. Grethe Cammermeyer, a retired nurse who successfully challenged the military’s ban on open service by gays and lesbians, planned to marry her longtime partner, Diane Divelbess, at their home in Langley. Nine other same-gender couples were to marry at the home, too, Cammermeyer told The Associated Press.

In Lynnwood, two couples — Kevin and Keith Arnett and Corine Schmidt and Molly Lloyd-Wilson — scheduled a joint ceremony at Trinity Lutheran Church.

And in Seattle, about 140 couples made reservations to marry at City Hall where five separate chapels were set up to accommodate the revelers.

Starting at 10 a.m., cheers and applause regularly broke out as another couple’s marriage became official.

At the Mukilteo Lighthouse, the cold, dreary weather didn’t dampen spirits of the two dozen friends and family members at the nuptials of Hendrickson and Ilg, who are Mukilteo residents.

Guests sat on folding chairs and benches, some squeezing packets of hand warmer salts, as Snohomish County District Court Judge Tam Bui officiated her first-ever marriage of a same-sex couple.

“This is a very fitting place because it is a very historic event for both of them,” she said.

The two men wore matching black suits, white shirts and red ties. Each had a red rose boutonniere pinned to his lapel.

In a brief ceremony of less than 10 minutes, they recited the traditional marriage vows — though Ilg drew laughs when he ad-libbed “for richer and richer” — exchanged rings and sealed it all with a kiss.

“By the power vested in me by the state of Washington,” Bui concluded, “I am so thrilled to pronounce you husband and husband. May I present you Mr. and Mr. Hendrickson-Ilg.”

Hendrickson shed tears at the end.

“It sounds a little odd,” he said of his new married title, “but I will definitely get used to it.”

Susan Ilg of Fremont, Calif., Steven Ilg’s sister-in-law, wiped away a few tears, too.

“The words mean something to me,” she said of the vows. “I think it’s fabulous they are able to do this.”

It’s a long time coming, said Roberta McKay of Redmond, who works with Steven Ilg at a medical supplies firm in King County.

“Everybody should have the opportunity,” she said. “I could not be happier for them.”

Don McKay, her husband, said watching two men exchange vows didn’t seem any different than if it was a man and a woman.

“It still feels like two people ready to spend their lives together,” he said.

Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to make same-sex marriage legal by popular vote. They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia in having laws or court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

Washington’s law doesn’t require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn’t subject churches to penalties if they don’t marry gay or lesbian couples.

Married same-sex couples will still be denied access to federal pensions, health insurance and other government benefits available to heterosexual couples because the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, bars federal recognition of gay unions.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it will take up gay marriage during the current term. Several pending cases challenge the federal benefit provision of DOMA, and a separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California’s Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by courts in the nation’s largest state.

Hendrickson and Ilg have been together 20 years, the last five in a registered domestic partnership.

They met through a personal ad Ilg placed in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.

“Dale responded. We talked for hours the first time we met,” Ilg said, adding the two have been together since.

They wanted to wed on the first day possible.

“We’re big believers in marriage,” Ilg said.

Hendrickson also said he wanted to be married just in case something arises to take it away like in California.

“Who’s to say it will always be there for everyone,” Hendrickson said. “Rights have to be used.”

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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