NEW YORK - (AP) - Buoyant gay couples cheered by supporters beganmarrying Sunday in Manhattan on the landmark day that New Yorkbecame the sixth and largest state to recognize same-sex weddings.
New York City officials expected to host hundreds of same-sexweddings Sunday and about 100 couples waited in line on asweltering morning in Manhattan for the chance to exchange vows atthe city clerk's office.
Some people waiting to wed clutched bouquets and wore tuxedos orwedding dresses before they were ushered in the clerk's office fora license and a ceremony in one of the building's simple chapels.Among the first couples to say "I do" were Daniel Hernandez, 53,and Nevin Cohen, 48, Manhattan residents who met in 1998.
"Long time waiting, right?" deputy clerk Alisa Fuentes askedthe couple, who smiled and nodded.
The two men, wearing matching navy blue sport jackets, kissed asa group of four friends clapped and news photographers' camerassnapped.
New York's adoption of legal same-sex marriage is viewed as apivotal moment in the national gay rights movement and was expectedto galvanize supporters and opponents alike. The state joinedConnecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, alongwith Washington, D.C., when it voted last month to legalize gaymarriage.
Protest rallies were planned around the state Sunday afternoon.
Clerks in New York City and about a dozen other cities statewideopened their doors Sunday to cater to same-sex couples. In New YorkCity, judges waived a mandatory 24-hour waiting period that allowedcouples to exchange vows moments after receiving their licenses.
Initially, New York City officials had projected that about2,500 couples might show up at the city clerk's offices hoping toget married on Sunday, but by the time a 48-hour lottery had drawnto a close on Thursday, 823 couples had signed up - 59 more thanthe city had planned to accommodate. The city will performceremonies for all 823.
The first couples got married at the stroke of midnight Sundayin every corner of the state, from Niagara Falls to the capital inAlbany to Long Island.
Gay-rights activists Kitty Lambert and Cheryle Rudd were legallymarried the very first moment they could be during a midnightceremony at Niagara Falls.
With a rainbow-lit Niagara Falls as a backdrop, Lambert, 54, andRudd, 53, were among the first gay couples to tie the knot with theblessing of the state. Lambert and Rudd, who have 12 grandchildrenbetween them, have been together for more than a decade and hadlong been fighting for the right to marry.
The couple, both from Buffalo, smiled broadly as they exchangedtraditional marriage vows, promising to love and cherish each otherin sickness and in health. A crowd of several hundred peoplecheered as they were pronounced married and shared their firstkiss.
"What an incredible night this was," said Lambert, who wore anelectric blue satin gown with a sequined train for the midnightceremony and carried a bouquet of blue hydrangeas. "This was anamazing night. Everything was absolutely perfect."
In Albany, Mayor Jerry Jennings performed marriages at 12:01a.m. Sunday in the Common Council's chambers.