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Ms. McGee said they wanted to get married there but were unable to before voters passed 2008’s Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by court ruling. A federal court has since struck down Prop. 8, but an appeal on that case is still pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ms. Dulaney and Ms. McGee registered as domestic partners in Seattle in 2005 and then through the state when the state’s domestic partnership law passed in 2007. Now they wanted to take that final step of marriage, even though they plan to move back to California in the coming months to be closer to family. They haven’t set a wedding date but said a simple service is planned within the 60 days that their license is valid.

“I feel much more moved by it than I thought I would,” Ms. Dulaney said. “I thought we were just going to come here, get the paperwork and go home. But now, it’s like, ‘Whoa.’”

“It’s for real now,” Ms. McGee told her.

Maryland’s law officially takes effect Jan. 1, but couples can start picking up marriage licenses on Thursday, as long as the license has an effective date of Jan. 1. Whether clerks of court issue a postdated license is up to them, however. They are not required to do so. Maine’s law takes effect on Dec. 29. There’s no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.

In addition to private ceremonies that will start taking place across Washington state this weekend, Seattle City Hall will open for several hours on Sunday, and several local judges are donating their time to marry couples. Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn, said that more than 140 couples have registered to get married at City Hall, and weddings will begin at 10 a.m.

Washington state has had a domestic partnership law in place since 2007. The initial law granted couples about two dozen rights, including hospital visitation and inheritance rights when there is no will. It was expanded a year later, and then again in 2009, when lawmakers completed the package with the so-called “everything but marriage” law that was ultimately upheld by voters later that year.

This year, lawmakers passed the law allowing gay marriage, and Mrs. Gregoire signed it in February. Opponents gathered enough signatures for a referendum, putting the law on hold before it could take effect.

Nearly 10,000 domestic partnerships are registered with the secretary of state’s office. Most same-sex domestic partnerships that aren’t ended before June 30, 2014, automatically become marriages, unless one of the partners is 62 or older.

That provision was included in the state’s first domestic partnership law of 2007 to help heterosexual seniors who don’t remarry out of fear they could lose certain pension or Social Security benefits.

Among those getting marriage licenses Thursday was gay rights activist and columnist Dan Savage, who will marry his partner on Sunday with other couples at Seattle City Hall.

“It’s been a long fight, but it ain’t over,” he said. “We still have to fight (the Defense of Marriage Act), and there’s 41 other states where same-sex couples aren’t allowed to marry.”

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Brian Witte in Annapolis and Clarke Canfield in Portland, Maine.