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The left-leaning city of Seattle joined the gay marriage fight Monday, with the mayor announcing that City Hall will recognize unions of gay city employees who tie the knot elsewhere and six same-sex couples suing for the right to wed. Mayor Greg Nickels issued an executive order requiring the city to recognize same-sex marriages by municipal employees. “Seattle has often been in the forefront of protecting all its citizens regardless of sexual orientation,” Nickels said at a news conference. He also proposed an ordinance to extend protections for gay married couples throughout the city. Meanwhile, six same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses at the King County Administration Building were rejected because of a state law that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. But King County Administrator Ron Sims invited the couples to sue him and the county, explaining that he supported the couples’ efforts but had no choice but to uphold the law. Sims, who is black, said he remembered images from his childhood of white government officials in the South blocking blacks from entering buildings restricted to whites. “I was not going to stand with my arms crossed and my hand up,” Sims said. “We do not have equal protection in this state when it comes to marriage.” The couples applauded Sims’ remarks, then filed their complaint, which argues that the law violates the Washington Constitution’s equal-protection clause. Meanwhile, the city of Asbury Park, New Jersey started issuing wedding licenses to same-sex couples, with the first couple married in City Hall on Monday. City Clerk Dawn Tomek made the announcement; it was not immediately clear if she had acted alone. “As a show of support to the city’s gay community and the gay community nationwide, the City of Asbury Park has determined that it will commence the issuance of licenses to same-sex couples and the solemnization of marriage between same-sex couples, immediately, as a matter of fundamental civil and Constitutional rights,” Tomek said in a statement. Nickels said he lacks the legal authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses or certificates like mayors in San Francisco and New Paltz, New York, have done. More than 3,600 same-sex marriages have been performed in San Francisco in the last three weeks, and hundreds of gay couples were granted wedding licenses last week in Portland, Oregon. The marriages are being challenged in court. New Paltz Mayor Jason West faces possible jail time for officiating at same-sex weddings for couples who lacked a license. On Monday, the prosecutor who charged him said he was also considering charges against two ministers who stepped in to marry gay couples in New Paltz. “What he’s about to do is anarchy — taking the law into his own hands,” Forcier said. “People cannot be recognized as married in one jurisdiction and not in another.” Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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