Amid cheers and tears, gay and lesbian couples began tying the knot in California on Monday, as a historic court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in America's most populous state took effect.
Officials started granting marriage licenses at 5:01 pm local time (0001 GMT), with the first weddings getting underway moments afterwards, ahead of an expected stampede by thousands of couples on Tuesday.
AdvertisementIn Los Angeles, Robin Tyler and Diane Olson -- the first plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the California Supreme Court overturning the ban last month -- were wed minutes after receiving their license in Beverly Hills.
The happy couple emerged from Beverly Hills courthouse to cheers from a crowd of around 100 wellwishers before exchanging vows under blue skies and brilliant sunshine in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony.
Both Tyler and Olson, wearing tailor-made cream linen suits, shed tears of emotion as they said their "I do's", before the wedding was declared legal at around 5:20 pm.
"I now pronounce you spouses for life," Rabbi Denise Eger told the couple to roars of applause.
"This is my wife for real," a beaming Tyler, 66, told reporters after the ceremony as she hugged Olson. "It was overwhelming. Every time the Rabbi said something, the crowd cheered."
A gaggle of around 20 protestors gathered near the wedding carrying banners with slogans that included: "Homo Sex is Sin!"
"God is looking down at us, looking at this event today, and he is not pleased," protestor John Franklin told a reporter.
At the same time in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom officiated at the wedding of veteran campaigners Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who exchanged vows after 56 years together.
The couple made international headlines in 2004 when they were married in the first round of same-sex marriages San Francisco, only for their nuptials to later be declared illegal.
Around two dozen gay and lesbian couples were due to tie the knot across California on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in California is expected to create a mini-industry worth several hundred million dollars, as couples flock to the state from around the country to tie the knot.
A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study said around 51,000 of the 102,000 same-sex couples living in California are expected to marry over the next three years, with a further 67,500 couples from outside the state expected to wed here during the same period.
Last month's landmark court ruling came after a long-running legal battle that erupted in 2000 when California voters approved a law declaring that only marriages between men and women could be legally recognized.
Opponents are seeking to force the issue back onto the agenda and have gathered enough signatures for a proposal calling for California to ban same-sex marriage to be added to ballot papers at November 4 elections.
After her wedding, Tyler said she expected the proposal would be defeated.
"There's no way on earth that that kind of hate is going to beat our love," she said.
The initiative comes as public opinion in the state appears more and more open to same-sex marriages. A recent poll showed 52 percent of Californians supported homosexual marriage compared to 41 percent who opposed it.
Both of the presumptive candidates in the November presidential election, Democrat hopeful Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, are opposed to same-sex marriages but are against a constitutional ban on the issue.
Catholic church leaders in Los Angeles on Monday registered their disapproval of same-sex marriage while calling for gays and lesbians to be accepted with respect and sensitivity.
"The church cannot approve of redefining marriage, which has a unique place in God's creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support the new life for which marriage is intended," Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and six auxiliary bishops said.
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