In 1958, Rudy Henry met John McCluskey at a New Year’s Eve party in San Francisco.
That’s the part they can agree on.
“We dated awhile before moving in together,” Rudy said.
“That’s not true,” John said. “It was love at first sight. He came to the party with someone else, but he left with me.”
That was more than 50 years ago.
Today, they were the first couple in line at the Pierce County Auditor’s Office to get their marriage license on the day same-sex marriage became legal in Washington State.
The office opened early at 6:30 a.m. to accommodate the 27 couples who wanted to be among the first in the county to get their marriage licenses. Deputy auditor Lori Augino said the office expected 150 couples before the end of the day.
Rudy, who is 78 years old and in a wheelchair because of a stroke, was so excited he had trouble sleeping the night before. Still, he had mixed emotions about the day.
“What’s sad about this is that I’m an American citizen, and so are my parents,” Rudy said. “But I was denied things that were never denied other people — the benefits of being a citizen in this country.”
“We never, ever thought we would ever get to this day,” said John, 76.
The atmosphere was festive, despite the early hour. Cheering supporters brought free donuts, coffee and single-stemmed roses. Ministers dressed in rainbow-colored garb congratulated the couples and offered their services.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, and her partner, Laura Wulf, also showed up to lend support, although they don’t plan to wed until the summer.
“People have been waiting a long time for this,” Jinkins said. “If 25 years ago, people hadn’t started to come out of the closet to their friends and family and neighbors, this wouldn’t have happened.”
John and Rudy plan to marry on Dec. 15. Jinkins said the gay and lesbian community is coming together to make the wedding happen — she’s cooking stuffed mushrooms, and a baker is donating his talents for the cake. The volunteers even made sure the couple had wedding rings by entering them in a contest at LeRoy Jewelers in downtown Tacoma (which John and Rudy won by popular customer vote).
“I’m kind of numb,” John said as he left the auditor’s office, marriage license in hand.