As the digital clock blinked midnight, Judy “JP” Persall and Diana Wickman took an oath 10 years in the making.
On Dec. 6 they became the first same-sex Sequim couple to receive their marriage license and they married Dec. 9.
Late Wednesday night, they joined a special ceremony at the Thurston County Courthouse in Olympia where Auditor Kim Wyman swore in 16 couples and issued their licenses.
“It’s an affirmation for us,” Wickman said.
“To be among this camaraderie here, we didn’t feel we could wait at home.”
“It’s symbolic that we got to do this in the state capital,” Persall said.
The couple learned of the event on Facebook and sent in an e-mail for a chance to participate. Originally, 10 couples were to receive their licenses that night, but Wyman, the soon-to-be secretary of state, allowed all 16 to participate.
The Sequim couple said they wanted to make a big deal out of the day so they stayed the night in Olympia and toured the capital.
“It was the perfect way to celebrate the day,” Wickman said.
At the ceremony, the couple met Mary Langely and Sharon Chirichillo, who live in Olympia and Port Angeles. They too received a license after being together for more than 27 years.
“It’s been a good engagement,” Chirichillo said.
All licensed couples have 63 days to be married after receiving their license and not sooner than three days, but Persall and Wickman married in a private ceremony on Sunday in their Happy Valley home with more than 20 friends and family; Chaplain Clare Manis Hatler of the Olympic Unitarian Universalist Fellowship led the ceremony.
Manis Hatler said being a part of Sequim’s first same-sex marriage was exciting.
“They are a great couple and it was a nice ceremony,” she said.
Becoming locally known for same-sex marriage fell into the couple’s laps, they said.
“We’re very private people, but there comes a time when you have to stand up,” Persall said. “We’re sort of accidental advocates.”
The couple retired to Sequim about three years ago: Persall is active in gardening and with the New Dungeness Light Station and Wickman is working to remodel the home they bought nine years ago.
Since moving here, they haven’t experienced negative feedback due to their sexuality.
“Everyone has been supportive,” Persall said. “People recognize us and congratulate us. I’m surprised by how much support we’ve gotten.”
Despite Washington voters’ November approval of R-74, which allows same-sex marriage, Clallam County voters were against same-sex marriage with 52.4 percent opposed (19,814), and 47.5 percent in favor (17,933). Five of 32 precincts in Sequim School District boundaries voted in favor of same-sex marriages — Cline, Dungeness West, Jamestown, Miller Peninsula and Port Williams.
“Clallam County has a large gay community,” Persall said. “Our neighbors are supportive as are our friends and family.”
Wickman said that online, people are generally positive when they appear in the news.
“People who don’t even know us are standing up for us,” she said.
The couple has a honeymoon planned, but Persall flew to Kentucky on Monday, Dec. 10, for her nephew’s wedding, which has been planned for some time.
“I told him when I get there, we’ll be on equal ground,” she said.
‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
The two women are retired Lieutenant Commanders from the U.S. Coast Guard and met while serving in San Francisco almost 11 years ago.
Persall said the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuality inhibited her in a lot of ways.
“I didn’t realize how much I had sectioned myself off,” she said.
Wickman found it hard to balance her personal life and work life after Persall retired. She had more time to serve before she could retire, yet both women retired early.
“That’s the paranoia that you lose what you work for,” Wickman said. “It shouldn’t be a shameful thing.”
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was repealed Sept. 20, 2011.
“I feel in our lifetime, equal marriage will be recognized on the federal level,” she said.
Two other couples applied for licenses with Clallam County on Dec. 6, and as of Monday, Dec. 10, xXXxx more have requested licenses.