The Pierce County Auditor’s Office is preparing to make history next week by issuing its first marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Marriage licenses become available Thursday when state Referendum 74 is certified, although the first weddings won’t occur until Dec. 9 because of the state’s three-day waiting period.
Auditor Julie Anderson estimated 150 couples will apply for a marriage license on the first day, but she admits that’s just a guess. It’s been hard to get a read on the potential demand because she’s received only one inquiry since Election Day. Meanwhile, she’s received three complaints from people who say the county is making special accommodations for same-sex couples.
The Auditor’s Office will offer extended hours Thursday and Friday and open for the weekend to accommodate an expected rush for licenses.
Anderson said she extends service hours anytime she expects a large crowd, such as the first day a new specialty license plate is made available. Residents also can apply for a passport and license a vehicle, boat and pet during the upcoming extended hours.
“I’d rather be over prepared and have people leave happy than end up having long lines,” she said.
Anderson also has taken steps so couples don’t have to camp overnight in their bid to become the first same-sex couple in Pierce County to receive a marriage license. On Wednesday, couples can stop by the office and pick up a number that will determine the order of licenses doled out the following day.
Thurston County will take a different approach. It will hold a lottery Monday to select 10 same-sex couples who will receive the first marriage licenses from Auditor Kim Wyman shortly after midnight Thursday.
The Thurston County Auditor’s Office has received numerous inquiries. Ten same-sex couples so far have filled out the online application for marriage licenses, and five couples have put in their names for the lottery, said Heather Hirotaka, the county’s licensing and recording manager.
“We’re planning for 300 (couples on the first day), and if it’s less than that, then at least we had a good plan in place,” she said.
On Thursday, the state Department of Health, which is responsible for vital records, sent counties new marriage certificates to recognize same-sex marriage. The state had proposed changing “bride” and “groom” to “Spouse A” and “Spouse B.” Following public comment, however, Health Secretary Mary Selecky decided on certificates that give the applicants the option of selecting “bride,” “groom” or “spouse.”