King County prepares to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as supporters claim victory

November 7, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 3:30 p.m. Nov. 7, 2012

King County Executive Dow Constantine is prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as Referendum 74 supporters claimed victory in the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

Dow Constantine

But not so fast, came the response from opponents. R-74 challengers said uncounted ballots from outside left-leaning King County could spell defeat for the measure.

In the initial results released Tuesday, R-74 led in the tally  52 percent to 48 percent, among more than 1.9 million ballots statewide. The measure relied on deep support in King County; R-74 garnered support from 65 percent of local voters.

Constantine, a longtime same-sex marriage supporter, hailed the milestone hours after the organization behind the campaign to approve R-74, Washington United for Marriage, claimed victory.

“Marriage equality is now the law of the land in Washington state, thanks to voters who have made our state, Maryland, and Maine, the first in the nation to recognize this civil right at the ballot box,” he said in a statement. “We can all be proud that our state is on the right side of history.”

Constantine said the King County Recorder’s Office expects a large number of applicants for marriage licenses if the law indeed goes into effect Dec. 6. The office plans to open for extended hours to accommodate the demand.

“I have one of the pens Gov. Gregoire used to sign the marriage equality bill into law, and I look forward to using that same pen to personally issue the first marriage license to a same-sex couple in King County on the first day the law goes into effect, Dec. 6,” Constantine said.

Still, R-74 opponents urged caution. Joseph Backholm, Preserve Marriage Washington chairman, said uncounted ballots in conservative counties could tip the balance.

“We understand the math is challenging, but there remains a path to victory for us,” he said in a statement. “Everyone needs to respect the process and wait for the ballots to be counted.”

Washington United for Marriage officials said a statewide analysis showed the measure is certain to pass, based on support in King County and key Eastern Washington counties.

“This is a clear win,” Zach Silk, Washington United for Marriage campaign manager, said in a statement. “We have run the numbers every which way, and we can now confidently say that we have won. This is an historic day for Washington, an historic day for our country and, most of all, for families across the state who have dreamed of this day and the wedding celebrations to come.”

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