Same-sex marriage, marijuana become legal

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SEATTLE - Supporters of two historic voter-approved initiatives celebrated as same-sex marriage and marijuana use became legal 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

 

The mood was festive as dozens of gay and lesbian couples stood in line overnight to pick up marriage licenses at the King County Auditor's Office.  

 

As the line grew, volunteers distributed roses and a group of men and women serenaded the waiting line to the tune of "Going to the Chapel."    

 

All night, King County Executive Dow Constantine signed more than 250 marriage licenses.  King County broke its one-day record for marriage license issuance during the first 3-1/2 hours.  The daily average is about 100 a day.  After nine hours, the county had issued 345.   Click here for more information on marriage licensing.

 

When the first couples emerged with their licenses, they were beaming.  Many said they had waited years for the day when they could legally marry.

 

"Much younger people are able to make the choice that we made 22 years ago to spend their lives together,  but they're going to get recognized in an equal and honored way at the beginning of their lives together," said license recipient Ruth Barton.

 

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is Sunday.  

 

King and  Thurston counties also opened their auditors' offices shortly after midnight Wednesday to accommodate those who wanted to be among the first to get their licenses.  

 

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the measure legalizing same-sex marriage into law on Wednesday.

 

Also on Wednesday, the city of Seattle postponed plans for a wedding gift to gay and lesbian employees when they marry.  The city had planned to give those workers a $90 a month allowance to offset a federal tax break available only to heterosexual couples under the Defense of Marriage Act.

 

KIRO-FM reported the benefit would cost Seattle taxpayers $162,000 a year. The city attorney's office raised concerns the benefit would violate state law.

 

About 200 pot smokers gathered at the base of the Space Needle to celebrate the legalization of marijuana.   A group of about 50 people also gathered outside Seattle's Hempfest offices in Lake City.

 

It was a joyous of celebration as people smoked pipes and joints as the law took effect.  Watch video of the celebrations here.

 

Though people who lit up in public were breaking the law, Seattle police only issued verbal warnings to smokers. No one was ticketed or arrested.

 

SPD said it would be treating public pot smoking in that manner for at least the next 30 days, giving the city and state time to determine how to deal with violators.

 

Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who was a lead proponent for marijuana legalization, said until then, SPD is taking a public education approach.   In the future, public smokers could be receive a $100 ticket.

 

A FAQ about legal pot and the full text of I-502 can be found here.

Meanwhile, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.  Because of this, Washington universities could lose federal funding if students light up on campus or in their dorms.  The University of Washington, Washington State University and other public universities have reminded students to not take marijuana onto school grounds.