WASHINGTON (AP) - At least a dozen couples tied the knot in the District of Columbia on the first day same-sex ceremonies were legally allowed, and many more unions were on the way.
The district on Tuesday became the sixth place nationwide where gay couples can legally get married, joining Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Rebecca and Delia Taylor picked up their license Tuesday morning and a minister friend immediately married them outside the courthouse. The couple said they long ago exchanged rings and considered themselves married. Still, they were grinning.
"We've referred to each other as wives," Rebecca Taylor said. "It's just a legal document, so if anything happens to one of us, we have rights."
Courthouse spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz says 42 couples picked up licenses from the marriage bureau on Tuesday, and 12 returned them signed with that date, indicating they were wed. Couples have 10 days to return their license after getting married, however, so more same-sex couples may have been hitched on the first day.
In the morning, three couples married at the office of the Human Rights Campaign, which does advocacy work on gay, lesbian and transgender issues. The Rev. Darlene Garner married the Rev. Candy Holmes. Reggie Stanley and Rocky Galloway married and then carried their 16-month-old twin daughters down the aisle, and Angelisa Young and Sinjoyla Townsend hugged and smiled after being declared "partners in life this day and for always."
"All of us have responsibilities to ensure the success of this joint endeavor," said the Rev. David North, who married Townsend and Young. He asked guests to "respect the life path that they choose together" and "commit to loving them."
"I accept this charge," the guests responded.
About 100 guests stayed for the three ceremonies. A cellist played, arrangements of yellow chrysanthemums, roses and carnations flanked the stage, and cream and gray programs announced the couples' names along with: "Congratulations to the couples on this historic day."
About 150 couples were eligible to pick up marriage licenses after applying last week. Many of them stood in line March 3 at the marriage bureau of the district's Moultrie Courthouse for four or more hours. Like all couples, they had to wait three business days for their licenses to be processed.
Fifteen licenses were picked up Tuesday in the first hour the marriage bureau was open.
Some couples, like district residents Eva Townsend and Shana McDavis-Conway, planned to marry immediately. They planned a ceremony by their plot in a community garden, where they've grown carrots and potatoes. Others said they would be joined over the next several weeks and months. A large number - many of whom had held previous ceremonies - planned to marry at the city's courthouse. Normally, the courthouse hosts four to six weddings a day, but over the next several weeks, officials are expecting 10 to 12 per day because of the demand for same-sex ceremonies.
Garner, 61, and Holmes, 53, were among the first same-sex couples to walk down the aisle.
"You have been in love, and you have recognized it all along. But today, the love that you have recognized in your heart is recognized by the District of Columbia," the Rev. Dwayne Johnson told the couple.
"Equality and justice for all now includes us," Garner said after the ceremony.