OLYMPIA, Wash. — Two retired military women who fought for the rights of gays in the military were among the hundreds of couples who received their marriage licenses last week as Washington state's voter-approved law allowing same-sex marriage took effect.
Former Air Force flight nurse Maj. Margaret Witt of Spokane and retired nurse Army Col. Grethe Cammermeyer of Whidbey Island both successfully challenged the military's ban on open service by gays and lesbians.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election Wednesday afternoon, and the law took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, when couples in Seattle lined up to pick up their licenses just after midnight.
"It will be an amazing energetic, joyous experience," said Witt, who will marry her partner of nine years, Laurie Johnson, on Dec. 15 in Spokane.
Witt, 48, was discharged from the Air Force Reserve because the military learned she was a lesbian, but a federal judge found her dismissal unconstitutional in 2010, and Witt retired with a full military pension last year.
Cammermeyer, 70, plans to get married today at her home in Langley, joined by nine other couples who will also get married there before her annual Christmas party that will also serve as a wedding reception.
Cammermeyer said her ability to now marry Diane Divelbess, her partner of 24 years, was an "opportunity to be treated as a family and as equals."
Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became 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 that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.