Washington’s gay marriage law brings hundreds to the altar

Hundreds of same-sex couples flocked to get married in the north-west state of Washington on the first day after the state approved gay marriage in a referendum in November.

At the Seattle City Hall on Sunday, a parade of couples streamed through – to the cheers and music of a crowd that had gathered on the rainy day to celebrate the advance for gay rights.

About 140 weddings were expected on Sunday at the city hall, but mayor Mike McGinn said the final tally could end up being higher.

"We're ahead of schedule here at city hall – we can take 10 more couples. If you want to marry here, check in at standby on Fifth Avenue," the mayor tweeted on Sunday afternoon.

He also tweeted to thank Balkan brass band Zirkonium Orkestar "for serenading newlyweds as they come down the stairs".

According to local newspaper the Seattle Times, more than 800 couples state-wide got marriage licenses on Thursday, the first day the law came into effect.

With a state-mandated three-day waiting period to have a wedding, Sunday was therefore the first day ceremonies could take place.

Wedding bells rang
Like several parts of the state, King County, which includes Seattle, started officiating marriages as soon as the clock struck midnight.

Among the many couples who paraded through the Seattle City Hall were Robin and Danielle, who did not give their last names.

"We renewed our vows today," Robin said via webcam, wearing, like her wife, a white jacket with a rose in her lapel. "We have a stronger than ever relationship now, recognised across the state, hopefully across the country at some point."

"We feel really good about it today," she added.

Governor Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, first signed a law legalising gay marriage in February, but opponents forced it into a referendum.

Voters approved the law on election day November 6, by a 52% to 48% margin.

"Thank you Washington state for giving all of our deserving families equality and respect," tweeted Governor Gregoire on Thursday.

"A step forward"
The north-eastern state of Maine and the mid-Atlantic state of Maryland also voted in favor of laws allowing same-sex marriage on election day, joining just six other states and the District of Columbia that had previously legalised the practice.

Dow Constantine, the top official in Kings County, cheered the law on Thursday when the state began issuing marriage licenses.

"We're taking another step forward as a county, as a state, as a society, as a nation," he said. – AFP

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