Hundreds of same-sex couples walked down the aisle Sunday. It was the first day couples could wed after Washington's gay marriage law went into effect this week.
"I'm so blessed to have you in my life and thrilled to let the world know that we are a couple on this wonderful and historic day," said Stephen Black to his new husband during their ceremony at First Congregational Church in Vancouver.
The church held free marriage ceremonies for gay couples all day Sunday with the first newlyweds saying "I do" at midnight.
Couples like Black and his husband, Terry Phillips, were able to pick up their marriage licenses Thursday, but because of the state's three-day waiting period, the earliest weddings could take place was just after midnight, early Sunday morning.
Last month, Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states - New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with the District of Columbia - that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Secretary of State Sam Reed certified the election results of Referendum 74 on Wednesday afternoon, and the law took effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. Same-sex couples who previously were married in another state that allows gay marriage, like Massachusetts, will not have to get remarried in Washington state. Their marriages became valid here as soon as the law took effect.
The referendum had asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Gregoire in February but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election. Nearly 54 percent of voters approved the measure.
The law doesn't require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and it doesn't subject churches to penalties if they don't marry gay or lesbian couples.
Married same-sex couples will still be denied access to federal pensions, health insurance and other government benefits available to heterosexual couples because the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, bars federal recognition of gay unions.
The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it will take up gay marriage sometime during the current term. Several pending cases challenge the federal benefit provision of DOMA, and a separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California's Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by courts in the nation's largest state.
Copyright 2012 KPTV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.