BELLINGHAM - The Whatcom County Auditor's Office will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples beginning Thursday, Dec. 6 - the first day that the state law legalizing gay marriage goes into effect.
The office also will stay open longer for three days beginning Dec. 6 in case a greater number of applications are filed.
"We wanted to be available if there was a substantial number. We just wanted to be prepared," Whatcom County Auditor Debbie Adelstein said, adding that she doesn't know how busy her office will be.
"At this stage, we're gearing up," she said.
Adelstein said her office received a few calls about marriage licenses for same-sex couples when the Legislature approved the measure earlier this year. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation, but it was put on hold pending the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.
Opponents gathered enough signatures to place Referendum 74 on the November ballot, but state voters then affirmed gay marriage.
The Auditor's Office is in the Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Ave. Suite 103, in Bellingham.
Extended hours will be:
- Thursday, Dec. 6: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 7: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 8: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Auditor's Office is the only place in Whatcom County where couples can get marriage licenses.
Because Washington state has a three-day waiting period, couples who obtain their licenses on Dec. 6 can't marry until Dec. 9.
Here's what all couples applying for marriage licenses should know:
- Licenses will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Couples may need to wait in line.
- Both applicants must be at least 18 years old and need to apply together and have photo IDs.
- Applicants will enter their information on a computer in the Auditor's Office. Extra computers will be set up.
- A marriage license costs $58. Cash and some credit or debit cards will be accepted, but not checks.
- The Auditor's Office doesn't perform marriages; couples must make other arrangements.
- Licenses are valid for weddings performed anywhere in Washington state within 60 days after they've been issued.
More information on applying for marriage licenses in Whatcom County is online at whatcomcounty.us/auditor/marriages.
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