Christopher Bacon and Dennis Rexroat met five years ago.
They knew from that first day they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives. But they weren't sure they'd ever be able to legally wed.
On Thursday -- the day Washington's same-sex marriage law, Referendum 74, took effect -- the Stanfield residents became one of the first gay couples to receive marriage licenses in Benton and Franklin counties.
Bacon, 38, who grew up in Burbank, said he's been fighting for gay rights since the early 1990s. "This last month has certainly been overwhelming," he said, standing outside the Benton County Annex in Kennewick, marriage paperwork in hand. "This is really exciting."
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Bacon and his husband-to-be missed being the first same-sex couple to get their paperwork locally by a few minutes. They arrived at the West Canal annex about 8:20 a.m. Another couple -- Sara Belchik and Annie Moser of West Richland -- were at the Benton County Courthouse in Prosser at 8 a.m.
"It's really cool to be the first -- to be able to tell future generations of our family," Moser, 32, later told the Herald. "It's starting to sink in. And it feels really good."
She and Belchik, 31, already had a wedding ceremony -- Nov. 10. They're planning a civil ceremony Sunday, the first day their marriage can become legally valid because of the state's three-day waiting period.
The couple have been together three years.
Moser said her gut told her Belchik was the one for her. "She understands me. I knew in my heart, I knew in my soul," Moser said. "I never thought I would ever experience that. But I did."
Belchik said Moser "helped me accept myself."
"Getting married didn't really matter to me growing up. Everybody else kind of played at it -- had play weddings," Belchik said. "But when I met Annie and we started our lives together, it became really important to me. There's no other word to describe her -- how I want her to be in my life -- but wife. It's the perfect word."
By 4 p.m., seven same-sex couples had obtained marriage licenses in Benton County. Franklin County saw two come in for paperwork, with the first arriving around 10 a.m.
At the Kennewick annex, Bacon and Rexroat made their way to a desk in the corner. A recording deputy helped them fill out the forms.
After a few minutes, they were done. They couldn't keep from smiling.
Rexroat, 45, said he loves Bacon's good heart and honesty.
Bacon said he was drawn to Rexroat by "the look in his eyes when I met him. And I just knew from that moment on."
"I met him on the day that my mother passed away, but many years later," Bacon said. "And I always felt that something important was taken on that day, but something equally as important was given back."
The state Legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill earlier this year, and it was affirmed by almost 54 percent of voters statewide in last month's election.
A majority of voters in the Mid-Columbia rejected it. In Benton County, 63 percent voted against it, and in Franklin County 69 percent rejected it.
Bacon and Rexroat plan to wed in a ceremony Dec. 15.
They've long been committed to each other, but being legally married -- having the paperwork, the validation -- means something, the couple said.
"We live our lives just knowing we're going to be together," Bacon said. But "it's nice to have a piece of paper that (allows you) to actually say, 'Yes, indeed, I am (married)."