Shortly after the clock struck midnight, two Seattle women legitimized their 35-year love affair early Thursday by becoming the first same-sex couple to receive a marriage license in King County, Washington.
The two women met on a blind date in 1977, when homosexuality was highly taboo and gay people socialized privately in homes, never in public.
Now Pete-e Petersen is 85 and Jane Abbott Lighty is 77, and they have lived to see the world transformed.
In the twilight of their lives, they thought they would die without being legally married, though they had a church wedding in 2005. But Washington voters approved Referendum 74, legalizing same-sex marriage, last month, allowing the first licenses to be issued on Thursday.
"Oh, my goodness!" Lighty said. "We've been together 35 years and seen all kinds of change."
"It's been a long journey," Petersen said. "We're so excited to know we'll get a license and then get married on Sunday."
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified Referendum 74 Wednesday, surrounded by the marriage equality bill's supporters.
"This is a very important and historic day in the great state of Washington. For many years now, we've said, 'One more step. One more step.' This is our last step," Gregoire said. "To the couples that are here today that will finally be treated with the equality they've deserved for many years, congratulations to each of you."
This year has been historic on many levels for the marriage equality movement.
After years of saying no at the ballot box, American voters for the first time said yes to same-sex marriage this fall in Washington, Maryland and Maine. Marriage licenses for same-sex couples will begin being issued on December 29 in Maine and January 1 in Maryland. Voters in Minnesota rejected a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage.
Those approvals contrast with the 38 states that have passed bans on marriages between people of the same sex, mostly by amending their constitutions to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
In six states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York -- and the District of Columbia, gays and lesbians have previously won marriage rights because of actions taken by judges or legislators, not voters.
A milestone also occurred this year in the nation's executive branch: President Barack Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage.
These political trends emerged as a majority of Americans say they support legally recognizing same-sex marriage at a time when the public demonstrates increasing comfort with gays and lesbians, according to a CNN/ORC International survey in June.
With 162 years between them, Petersen and Lighty can recall the dark days of being gay in America.
"Of course, we were in the so-called closet," Petersen said. "Fortunately, we're blessed by nice looks so people didn't know right off the bat we were gay or homosexuals."
They can leverage the unpleasant moments into humor.
For example, Petersen was an Air Force nurse in the Korean War. Stationed in Japan, she flew all kinds of air missions to retrieve wounded troops in Korea and take them to Tokyo -- similar to what television's "M*A*S*H" depicted.
She was eventually promoted to captain in the Air Force and also was put in charge of a clinic in San Antonio, Texas.
During that time, she recalls the military hunts for gay men and women. Military brass never suspected her, she said. Lighty enjoyed the same illusion as a young woman.
"I was fortunate," Petersen said. "We passed.
"People would come up in the hospital, and they were always hunting for gay people," she continued, talking about the military.
Captain, the investigators asked, "Do you have any ... people being gay here?"
"I said, 'Not a one,'" she recalled.
"It was just awful. It was a witch hunt, just really trying to oust people. If a military person, like an airman first class (woman), had short hair or walked like a tough person, they were questioning them and always quizzing them," Petersen said. "I told them to leave them alone."