SEATTLE -- Scores of same-sex couples crowded Seattle City Hall for a day of wedding ceremonies Sunday, the first day they could marry after the state's voter-approved gay marriage law took effect.
While numerous weddings were taking place across the state, both private and public, the city hall weddings were the largest public event, with about 140 couples taking part. The city set up five separate chapels to accommodate the revelers. Starting at 10 a.m., cheers and applause regularly broke out as another couple's marriage became official. Weddings at city hall were to continue through 5 p.m.
After couples married, they exited city hall, greeted by a steady rain and by dozens of supporters who cheered them with shouts of "congratulations" and flowers as they descended a large staircase down to the street.
"I don't even have words for this," said Caren Goldenberg of Seattle, who married her partner of seven years, Casey Evans. "It just makes me really proud of my city."
Mayor Mike McGinn, who greeted couples at they arrived, called it a "great day, a joyous day."
"It's really wonderful," he said. "A new civil right is going to be recognized in this great civil institution."
Keith Bacon and Corianton Hale of Seattle, who celebrated their six-year anniversary the night before, hugged and kissed to loud cheers and camera flashes as they took their vows before one of the 16 local judges who volunteered to officiate the weddings on Sunday.
"We're totally thrilled," Mr. Bacon said. The couple had a commitment ceremony in August but said this day was particularly special.
"We had looked at this as maybe a day we would sign a piece of paper and seal the deal, and instead we're having this huge party being thrown in our honor," Mr. Bacon said. "It's just mind blowing."
Some courthouses, including in King and Thurston counties, opened right at midnight, and started marrying couples. Private weddings are expected to take place across the state, as well as some other public events, including the marriage of two couples after the end of the first act of a Seattle Men's Chorus performance at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. The Paramount Theater in Seattle was also to host a large wedding reception for couples.
Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples picked up their marriage licenses as early as 12:01 a.m. Thursday, but because of the state's three-day waiting period, the earliest weddings could take place was just after midnight, early Sunday morning. In King County, home to Seattle, more than 600 same-sex marriage licenses were issued by Saturday.
Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states -- New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont -- and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.
Couples in Maryland also started picking up marriage licenses Thursday, though their licenses won't take effect until Jan. 1. Maine's law takes effect on Dec. 29. There's no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.