By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — The North Olympic Peninsula's first same-sex couple to seek a marriage license in Jefferson or Clallam county arrived at the Jefferson County Courthouse Thursday at 9 a.m., unaware that the office opened at 8:30 a.m.
Carlyle Bishop and Harry Vossenas, both of Port Townsend, still earned the distinction of being first on the Peninsula.
But they were not the first residents from the North Olympic Peninsula to get a same-sex marriage license on the first day of the new state law.
That distinction went to Diana Wickman and Judy Persall of Happy Valley, near Sequim, who trekked to Olympia to obtain their marriage license shortly after 12:01 a.m. in Thurston County.
Thurston and King counties issued licenses early Thursday to commemorate the new law.
By noon, nearly 400 licenses had been issued by King County in Seattle alone.
But on the North Olympic Peninsula, only Bishop and Vossenas and one other couple received marriage licenses by noon, both in Jefferson County.
Clallam County Auditor Patty Rosand said two same-sex couples, both of whom were women, had applied at her office in Port Angeles by late afternoon.
“I expected a lot more people,” said Jefferson County Auditor's Office Recording Clerk Bonnie Swafford at the county courthouse in Port Townsend.
“Maybe it will pick up later.”
Elections Supervisor Karen Cartmel also was surprised, especially considering Port Townsend's highly visible gay population.
Bishop, 66, is a retired postal worker, while Vossenas, 61, is the daytime manager at Aldrich's Market in Port Townsend.
The couple, who have lived in Port Townsend, plan to take their vows at the courthouse.
There is a mandatory three-day waiting period for marriage licenses in Washington state.
Therefore, the earliest any Thursday applicant can get legally hitched is Sunday.
“We've been together for 33 years and wanted to have the same rights as anyone else,” Bishop said.
“Although for us, nothing will change.”
The Jefferson County Auditor's Office made a big deal about Thursday's first same-sex couple, taking pictures and offering to send them to commemorate the occasion.
Jefferson County Auditor Donna Eldridge said the application process went smoothly, with no issues on the paperwork side.
Eldridge said being present for Bishop's and Vossenas' marriage license application was significant especially for personnel in the Auditor's Office because of Bishop's career with the post office just a few blocks away.
“We all in the office personally know [Bishop],” Eldridge said. “It was just exciting to issue them the first license in Port Townsend because we have known them for years.”
Throughout, the couple maintained a sense of humor about the process.
“They've changed the whole 'husband and wife' listing on the form to 'victim 1 and victim 2,'” Vossenas said.
Later in the morning, Karen Frank and Dana Fickeisen of Port Townsend became the county's first female same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license.
Clallam Auditor Rosand said she was keeping updated on licenses applied for across the state.
Rosand said most counties surrounding Puget Sound and reaching up into the San Juans have gotten between 10 and 30 applications, with King County — the state's most populous — topping the list.
“It looks like King County is the place to be,” Rosand said.
“We're just waiting for applicants,” she said before the couple applied around midafternoon.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the voter-ratified law legalizing gay marriage Wednesday afternoon so it could take effect exactly a month after Referendum 74 was approved by voters Nov. 6.
“This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington,” Gregoire said before signing the measure that officially certified the election results.
“For many years now, we've said one more step, one more step. And this is our last step for marriage equality in the state of Washington.”
Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.
They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia that already had enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in British Columbia since July 2003.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PDN Reporter Jeremy Schwartz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.