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Same-sex couples in Wash. start taking wedding vows

Newlyweds Heather Laird (left) and Dawn Rains were showered with flower petals as they left Seattle City Hall Sunday.

Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Newlyweds Heather Laird (left) and Dawn Rains were showered with flower petals as they left Seattle City Hall Sunday.

SEATTLE — Scores of same-sex couples crowded Seattle City Hall for a day of wedding ceremonies on Sunday, the first day they could marry after the state’s voter-approved gay marriage law took effect.

While numerous weddings were taking place across the state, both private and public, the City Hall weddings were the largest public event, with about 140 couples taking part. The city set up five separate chapels to accommodate the ceremonies.

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Starting at 10 a.m., cheers and applause regularly broke out as another couple’s marriage became official. Weddings at City Hall were to continue through 5 p.m.

After couples married, they exited City Hall, greeted by a steady rain and by dozens of supporters who cheered them with shouts of ‘‘congratulations’’ and flowers as they descended a large staircase down to the street.

‘‘I don’t even have words for this,’’ said Caren Goldenberg of Seattle, who married her partner of seven years, Casey Evans. ‘‘It just makes me really proud of my city.’’

Mayor Mike McGinn, who greeted couples at they arrived, called it a ‘‘great day, a joyous day.’’

Keith Bacon and Corianton Hale of Seattle, who celebrated their six-year anniversary the night before, hugged and kissed to loud cheers and camera flashes as they took their vows before one of the 16 local judges who volunteered to officiate the weddings on Sunday.

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‘‘We’re totally thrilled,’’ Bacon said. The couple had a commitment ceremony in August but said this day was particularly special.

‘‘We had looked at this as maybe a day we would sign a piece of paper and seal the deal, and instead we’re having this huge party being thrown in our honor,’’ Bacon said.

Nancy Monahan, 57, a retired petty officer with the Coast Guard, waited outside before the weddings began with her partner of 14 years, Deb Needham, 48. Monahan was wearing her uniform, and Needham was wearing an ivory dress and jacket and matching hat. They said they wanted to join the large wedding event at City Hall because of the significance of the day.

‘‘It’s not very private, but very historic,’’ Needham said, to which Monahan added, ‘‘And very awesome.’’

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples picked up their marriage licenses as early as 12:01 a.m. Thursday, but because of the state’s three-day waiting period, the earliest weddings could take place was just after midnight, early Sunday morning.

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