King County to be the first in nation to enact marriage equality based on voter approval
King County Executive Dow Constantine will open the County Recorder's Office at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6 – immediately upon certification of the November election – to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
"I don't want couples to wait a minute longer than legally necessary to get the rights that voters have recognized," said Executive Constantine, who will personally sign the first marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m.
The move will make King County the first jurisdiction in the nation to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on voter approval. Voters in Washington, Maryland, and Maine all approved marriage equality initiatives on Election Day last week, but the laws in Maryland and Maine will not take effect until January. Under state law couples must wait three days before the actual marriage ceremony may be performed.
The Recorder's Office is located in the King County Administration Building at 500 Fourth Avenue in Seattle. Couples may start lining up at the James Street entrance (on the north plaza of the Administration Building) at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5. An official queuing area will be designated on the plaza. For people with mobility issues, an accessible entrance will be available on Fourth Avenue, and individuals will be directed to the plaza.
Couples will be served on a first-come, first-served basis. As previously announced, the Recorder’s Office will remain open on Dec. 6 until 6:30 p.m. to meet expected demand. All couples within the official queuing area at 4:30 p.m. will be served.
On Friday, Dec. 7, the office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Couples will be able to line up starting at 6:30 a.m. All couples within the official queuing area at 4:30 p.m. will be served.
On Saturday, Dec. 8, the Recorder’s Office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The lineup will begin at 6:30 a.m., and all couples within the official queuing area at 2:30 p.m. will be served.
All couples, regardless of gender, seeking a marriage license on these three days will need to wait in line. To help reduce delays, couples are encouraged to download a marriage license application from www.kingcounty.gov/marriage and bring the completed form with them when they apply.
In case of inclement weather on any of these three days, check local media or www.kingcounty.gov for information.
Below is general information on marriage licensing, the requirements for obtaining a license, and things to keep in mind as couples prepare for this important day. This information is also available at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
Applying in Person
Both parties must be present to obtain a marriage license in person. Save time by downloading and completing an application at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage. Bring the completed application, photo ID, and the $64 fee (cash or local check, no debit or credit cards). The license will be issued at that time, but does not become valid until a three-day waiting period has passed. Applicants do not need witnesses, blood tests, birth certificates, or divorce papers to apply. The application process takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete.
Both applicants must be unmarried and at least 18 years old or otherwise able to meet the age requirements. Same-sex couples do not have to be previously registered domestic partners to apply for a marriage license. However, if a same-sex couple has registered, they must indicate that on their license application. They will also have to pay the $64 application fee.
Applicants cannot be more closely related than second cousins, whole or half blood.
Seventeen-year-olds can only apply if their parent or legal guardian submits a notarized statement of consent or the applicant is legally emancipated and takes a court-certified copy of the emancipation document with them to apply.
Applicants under the age of 17 can only apply when the age requirement is waived by a superior court judge of the county in which one of the parties lives. Each party to the marriage who is under 17 years of age must present a waiver specifically naming them.
Previously divorced applicants do not need to have a copy of their divorce papers to apply for a new marriage license. A divorce must be final and filed before applying for a marriage license. Under no circumstances may a person apply for a marriage license before they are divorced.
Residency and Citizenship Requirements
Marriage license applicants do not have to reside in Washington State, nor do they need to be a citizen of the United States. A marriage license purchased from any county in Washington State can be used to get married anywhere in Washington State. Couples do not have to apply for a marriage license in the county where they live, nor do they need to apply for their marriage license in the county where the wedding ceremony will take place. However, a marriage license obtained in Washington State cannot be used to get married in another state or country.
Applicants are not required to have a U.S. Social Security number in order to obtain a marriage license. However, one of the marriage license forms requires the inclusion of one's Social Security number or the applicant's signature on a declaration that they do not have a U.S. Social Security number. This will not affect the couple's ability to receive a marriage license.
When and Where the Marriage License Can Be Used
Washington State marriage licenses become valid for use on the third day following application and are then valid for 60 days. For example, if an application is made on Thursday, the first day the marriage license can be used is Sunday. The last day it can be used is 60 days later. If the wedding ceremony does not take place within this time period, the couple will need to apply for a new marriage license.
Under no circumstances can the three-day waiting period be waived.
If a couple applies for their marriage license less than three days before their established wedding date, they will need to have a separate ceremony within the period the license is valid in which the parties assent or declare, in the physical presence of the officiant and at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses. The marriage license forms will be completed and signed using this date.
A Washington State marriage license can only be used to get married within the state. A wedding ceremony on a vessel must be in Washington waters.
Who Can Perform a Wedding Ceremony?
- Justices of the Washington State Supreme Court
- Judges of the Washington State Court of Appeals
- Judges of the superior courts and superior court commissioners in Washington State
- Judges of courts of limited jurisdiction (for example, district courts or municipal courts) in Washington State
- Any regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest of any church or religious denomination
- A minister from a church in another state can perform a wedding ceremony in Washington State and is not required to register with the state in order to do so
Washington State does not "license" persons to perform weddings. If a minister or priest is recognized as ordained or granted the power to perform weddings by their religious organization, that person is allowed to do so in Washington State. Washington State does not grant a one-day license for persons to perform wedding ceremonies.
A ship captain cannot perform a wedding ceremony simply by virtue of being a ship captain. However, if the captain otherwise meets the requirements above, they can do so.
Neither the couple nor the two witnesses can officiate the wedding ceremony, even if they meet the requirements of the law to officiate weddings.
State law does not specify the age of witnesses. However, they are witnessing a civil contract. As such, a witness is deemed competent for this purpose usually at the age of 18. If applicants wish to have persons under the age of 18 witness the ceremony, we recommend they have two other witnesses who are over 18 also observe the exchange of vows and sign the marriage certificates. More than two witnesses may sign the certificates.
- Proxy weddings (where someone stands in for the other party) are not recognized in Washington State. The two parties must be physically present before the two witnesses and the officiant in order for the ceremony to be performed.
- A wedding ceremony must take place. Simply applying for and obtaining a marriage license does not make you married.
- A minimum of five persons must be present at the wedding ceremony: the officiant, the couple, and two witnesses.
- The officiant cannot serve as a witness.
- The parties must assent or declare, in the physical presence of the officiant solemnizing the marriage and at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses.
Preparing, Completing, and Returning Marriage License Forms
Full directions for completing marriage license forms and filing them after the ceremony can be found at www.kingcounty.gov/marriage.
Within 30 days of the wedding ceremony, the officiant must return the completed Washington State Department of Health certificate to:
King County Marriage Licensing
King County Administration Building
500 Fourth Ave., Suite 311
Seattle, WA 98104