Referendum 74 was passing with nearly 52 percent of the vote on election night, and as marriage equality campaign manager Zach Silk put it, "last time I checked, that's winning."

Still, leading advocates of marriage equality were being cautious. "Returns aren't finished," said state senator Ed Murray (D-43). "But we have a lot to celebrate tonight." Murray deliberately stopped short of declaring victory, but he told a cheering crowd at the Westin Hotel: "You have sent a message of hope across this state."

Murray's legislative colleague, state representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), was similarly noncommittal. "The next generation of kids is going to grow up knowing they have the full support of their government," he said, without saying that this full support had now arrived in Washington State.

The holdup was King County, which still had tons of ballots to count. Still, with 65 percent of King County voters approving R-74 in the initial count, and that trend likely to continue through the full count, seasoned political watchers were predicting victory. "Fifty-two percent, with King County what it is—it's still time to call Washington State for marriage equality," said Governor Chris Gregoire.

Similarly, Matt Barreto, who runs the Washington Poll, projected that R-74 would be approved and added that he expected Jay Inslee to be the next governor. "King County delivered both," Barreto said.

Gregoire, who had a late-career conversion on marriage equality, called her daughters up to the podium at the Westin and thanked them for changing her mind. "They told me, 'This is the civil rights issue of this generation,'" Gregoire said. "They're right."