University Place resident Nancy Mellor was married March 28, 2009, during a ceremony witnessed by family members on Fox Island.
It wasn’t legal in the eyes of the state. But it was in the eyes of the only person who mattered, partner Kariena Martonik.
Today the couple will no longer have to concern themselves with this distinction as Washington becomes the seventh state to legally recognize same-sex marriage after voters approved Referendum 74 last month.
“Now we can say we’re married, and people won’t say, ‘You can do that?’” Mellor said.
The couple still must go through some formalities to make their union legal. Mellor was first among several people who showed up before the doors opened at the Pierce County Auditor’s Office on Wednesday.
They were there to reserve a spot to become among the first same-sex couples in the county to obtain a marriage license today. The county decided to hand out numbers a day earlier so couples didn’t have to camp overnight in their bid to make local history.
Gov. Chris Gregoire made the law official by signing Referendum 74 in a ceremony at the state Capitol later Wednesday.
Mellor, a 49-year-old mental health counselor, and Martonik, a 44-year-old textbook manager at the Pierce College bookstore, will be the third couple to get their Pierce County license today; the first two couples were selected ahead of Wednesday’s reservations.
“This is just a historic day,” Mellor said after an office employee gave her the No. 3 card. “It’s awesome to be part of this.”
As of closing Wednesday, 20 couples had reserved a spot, although others can show up this morning without a reservation. Auditor Julie Anderson has estimated that 150 couples will visit the office today to obtain a license. The office will offer extended hours today and Friday and open over the weekend to accommodate an expected rush for licenses.
Mellor showed up at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, expecting a long line of people. She was surprised to find no one ahead of her. Martonik, who had to work, stopped by later.
Mellor was accompanied by friends Zara Lujan, 27, and Lizzie Munday, 30, both of Tacoma. Mellor and Martonik, who are both ordained ministers, will preside over Lujan and Munday’s wedding in September.
Mellor, who co-founded Oasis, a Pierce County support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, said she’d been optimistic Washington would legalize same-sex marriage, while her partner had been more pessimistic.
The No. 3 card they picked up Wednesday morning is significant in more ways than one. On Sunday, following the three-day waiting period required by state law, the couple will reunite with the officiant who presided over their wedding three years ago.
The couple will have a small ceremony at Lake Tapps to sign the wedding certificate that serves as legal proof of their union. Mellor’s father, Dean, and Martonik’s brother, Kris, will serve as witnesses.
“For us, this is important, but not as important as our marriage ceremony,” Mellor said.
But the tears in Martonik’s eye as she left the auditor’s office with her future legal spouse belied that.
For her, today means it may get easier to hold Mellor’s hand without having to think about it. It means others may not have to see their friends bullied due to their sexual orientation, the way she has. It means others may not have to mourn friends lost to suicide, as she has.
It means the struggle for acceptance may get a little easier.
“It’s emotional for me because I honestly didn’t think this day would come, not in my lifetime,” Martonik said. “It’s actually happening. The world is changing.”Christian Hill: 253-274-7390