Gay and lesbian couples in Washington state can start marrying as early as next month after voters approved a state law passed earlier this year allowing same sex marriage. State and county officials are making preparations to implement the law when it takes effect Dec. 6, according to The Associated Press (AP).

Washington joins eight other states and the District of Columbia that have legalized same-sex marriage. Voters in Washington, Maine and Maryland approved same-sex marriage ballot measures on Nov. 6. New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont already allow same-sex couples to marry.

Officials in Washington state say they will be ready to implement the new law. The state Department of Health must change the language on marriage and divorce forms. Marriage certificates currently use the words "bride" and "groom." Officials have suggested changing that to "Spouse A" and "Spouse B." A meeting is scheduled for next week to discuss the final language.

County officials are also gearing up for the new law. King County, which includes Seattle and Tacoma, has already updated its website to announce that licenses for same-sex marriage will be issued.

Counties are updating their forms and procedures to reflect the same-sex law. Vicky Dalton, the Spokane County Auditor, has been designated as a point person for all 39 counties as they implement the law.

Dalton said counties began preparing earlier this year after the state legislature passed the law. She said it was unlikely, however, that every county will have the changes programmed into their system by the Dec. 6 effective date.

But Dalton said counties that do not have new forms ready will simply issue the old ones instead. "We'll be ready on Dec. 6 to be issuing marriage licenses and certificates to any couple that is qualified under the law," she told AP.