MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gay couples began tying the knot at Minneapolis City Hall early Thursday and are preparing to do so now that town clerks' offices opened in Rhode Island, as the two states became the latest to allow same-sex marriage.
The Minnesota law allowed weddings to begin just after midnight Wednesday, and 42 couples were to be married by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and several Hennepin County judges in the hours before dawn.
"I didn't expect to cry quite that hard," said a beaming Cathy ten Broeke, who with Margaret Miles was the first gay couple to be wed at City Hall.
The attending crowd burst into applause as Rybak pronounced Miles and ten Broeke married. The couple stood nearby embracing their 5-year-old son, Louie.
"We do," all three said to more cheers as they promised to be a family.
Officials around Rhode Island began issuing licenses when offices opened at 8:30 a.m., including in Newport.
A couple that have been together for 41 years, Federico Santi and John Gacher, arrived first thing at the Newport clerk's office. They had previously been joined in a civil union, so they were immediately married after getting their license.
Newport City Clerk Kathleen Silvia calls Thursday, in her words, "a day of smooching" in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island was the last state in New England to legalize same-sex marriage.
Rhode Island and Minnesota became the 12th and 13th states to allow gay marriage, along with Washington, D.C. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30% of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal.
In Minnesota, budget officials estimated that about 5,000 gay couples would marry in the first year. Its enactment capped a fast turnabout on the issue in just over two years. After voters rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage last fall, the state Legislature this spring moved to make it legal.
"I don't think either of us ever thought we'd see this day," said Mike Bolin, of the Minneapolis suburb of Richfield, who was marrying Jay Resch, his partner of six years, at Minneapolis City Hall.
Lawmakers in the heavily Catholic state of Rhode Island passed the marriage law this spring, after more than 16 years of efforts by same-sex marriage supporters. Both Minnesota and Rhode Island will automatically recognize marriages performed in other states.
Bolin and Resch celebrated Wednesday night with several hundred others at Wilde Roast Cafe along the Mississippi River north of downtown Minneapolis. Many at the event planned to walk to City Hall for the mass nuptials.
Dayton proclaimed Aug. 1 to be "Freedom to Marry Day" in Minnesota.
Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc. donated Betty Crocker cakes for the event, which was also to feature performances by local musicians and services donated by wedding photographers, florists and other businesses.
Weddings were not limited to the Twin Cities. In St. Cloud, Stearns County court administrator Tim Roberts planned to marry a couple at 12:01 a.m. at the courthouse. "It feels historic. It's an honor to be a part of it," Roberts said. Midnight weddings were also planned for courthouses in Clay County, Polk County and elsewhere.