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 this 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. They were first in line on Thursday in their home counties to receive their licenses with their partners.
"First, to be able to serve their country openly was in and of itself historical, and a significant step forward for our nation. And now to be able to legally wed the person they love is yet another historical milestone," said Anne Levinson, a gay rights activist who worked on the campaign to approve same-sex marriage. "They're remarkable women."
Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election on 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.
Because the state has a three-day waiting period, the earliest that weddings can take place is today.
"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. She is currently a physical therapist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Spokane.