Same-sex couples exchange vows in Seattle

About 140 couples get married at City Hall

Boutonnieres, photographers, smiles and tears of joy -- requisite wedding fixtures -- abounded at Seattle's City Hall.

But for 133 couples, the fanfare brought an extra dimension.

After exchanging vows at five stations set up in City Hall Sunday, they walked outside and down rain-slickened steps, greeted by cheers, confetti and a brass band celebrating the first day same-sex couples could marry in Washington.

"Today was really about the state of Washington recognizing us," said Robin Wyss, who married Danielle Yung, her partner of eight years. "People beyond our close friends and family saying our family is as valid as any other family."

After years of saying no at the ballot box, American voters for the first time said yes to same-sex marriage this fall in Washington, Maryland and Maine.

The couples married Sunday in Seattle were among the first such couples in Washington to obtain marriage licenses Thursday.

"You are seeing all generations here, people fighting for equality for decades," Aaron Pickus, press secretary to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, told CNN. "It's a very happy day."

Local businesses provided refreshments. Musicians and photographers volunteered their services, Pickus said.

A city website featured interviews with couples, photos, live webcams and information on obtaining a marriage license.

Keith Bacon, 44, and Corianton Hale, 34, of West Seattle were among those tying the knot in simultaneous services.

"After a commitment ceremony (this past summer) we just thought we would go down to City Hall, fill out paperwork and call it good," said Bacon. "(Today) you would hear bursts of applause. It was very festive and joyous, kind of an electric feeling in the air. "

Bacon and Wyss expressed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will issue rulings favorable to same-sex marriage.

On Friday, the justices said they will hear two constitutional challenges to state and federal laws dealing with the recognition of gay and lesbian couples to legally wed.

Oral arguments will likely be held in March with a ruling by late June.

One appeal to be heard involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own state.

The second is a challenge to California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that took away the right of same sex-marriage that previously had been approved by the state's courts.

Before November's vote, couples in Washington had domestic partner rights. Bacon and Wyss said they now feel full equality.

"Just being able to say Corianton is my husband, not just my partner," Bacon told CNN.

Approval of same-sex marriage in Washington contrasts with the 38 states that have passed bans on marriages between people of the same sex, mostly by amending their constitutions to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In six states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York -- and the District of Columbia, gays and lesbians have previously won marriage rights because of actions taken by judges or legislators, not voters.

A milestone also occurred this year in the nation's executive branch: President Barack Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage.

These political trends emerged as a majority of Americans say they support legally recognizing same-sex marriage at a time when the public demonstrates increasing comfort with gays and lesbians, according to a CNN/ORC International survey in June.

Bacon said he and Hale have had to deal with acceptance among some family members. "We're in a great place, but it took awhile."

"I feel like we made history today, and I like the way history is going," said Bacon.


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