Updated 10:16 a.m. Aug. 1, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS Dozens of gay couples began tying the knot early Thursday in Minnesota, and town clerks began issuing Rhode Island's first marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as those two states became the latest to legalize same-sex marriage.
"I didn't expect to cry quite that hard," said a beaming Cathy ten Broeke, who with Margaret Miles was the first gay couple to be wed at Minneapolis City Hall.
After Miles and ten Broeke exchanged vows and rings just before midnight Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak had musicians kill a few minutes until the clock struck 12:01 a.m. Thursday, when the law went into effect.
Then the attending crowd burst into applause as Rybak pronounced Miles and ten Broeke married. The couple stood nearby embracing their 5-year-old son, Louie.
"We do," all three said to more cheers as they promised to be a family.
Rhode Island and Minnesota became the 12th and 13th states to allow gay marriage, along with Washington, D.C. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal.
Both Minnesota and Rhode Island will automatically recognize marriages performed in other states.
The law allowed weddings to begin just after midnight, and 63 couples were expected to be married by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and several Hennepin County judges in the hours before dawn. CBS Minneapolis station WCCO-TV says Rybak planned to officiate at 42 of the ceremonies.
Like a student studying for a test, Rybak was getting to know the couples he was to marry. "I never want to have a day where it feels like a conveyor belt of love," Rybak told WCCO.
Weddings were scheduled at Minneapolis City Hall, St. Paul's Como Park, Mall of America's Chapel of Love and at county courthouses around the state. One group planned a cluster of weddings in a Duluth tavern.
"I don't think either of us ever thought we'd see this day," said Mike Bolin, of the Minneapolis suburb of Richfield, who was marrying Jay Resch, his partner of six years, at Minneapolis City Hall. "We met at low points in both of our lives, and to have arrived at this point -- there's going to be a lot of tears."
Rhode Island officials were predicting a relatively calm day, as their state was the last in New England to legalize same-sex marriage.
At the Newport City Clerk's office was a couple that have been together for 41 years. Federico Santi and John Gacher previously were joined in a civil union and immediately married after getting their license.
Newport City Clerk Kathleen Silvia calls Thursday, in her words, "a day of smooching" in Rhode Island.
Among those to be wed is openly gay State Rep. Frank Ferri, who told CBS Affiliate WPRI he'll be marrying his partner of 32 years in a private ceremony. Speaker of the House Gordon Fox -- also openly gay -- will preside over the ceremony.
In Minnesota, budget officials assessing the impact of the law estimated that about 5,000 gay couples would marry in the first year. Its enactment capped a fast turnabout on the issue in just over two years. After voters rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage last fall, the state Legislature this spring moved to make it legal.
Bolin and Resch celebrated Wednesday night with several hundred others at Wilde Roast Cafe along the Mississippi River north of downtown Minneapolis. Many at the event planned to walk to City Hall for the mass nuptials.
Minn. Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed Aug. 1 to be "Freedom to Marry Day" in Minnesota. The governor was to be on hand at Minneapolis City Hall for the ceremonies starting at midnight.
Golden Valley-based General Mills Inc. donated Betty Crocker cakes for the event, which was also to feature performances by local musicians and services donated by wedding photographers, florists and other businesses.
Weddings were not limited to the Twin Cities. In St. Cloud, Stearns County court administrator Tim Roberts planned to marry a couple at 12:01 a.m. at the courthouse. "It feels historic. It's an honor to be a part of it," Roberts said. Midnight weddings were also planned for courthouses in Clay County, Polk County and elsewhere.
At Mall of America, Holli Bartelt and Amy Petrich from the southeastern Minnesota town of Wykoff were set to become the first couple married at the Chapel of Love. Owner Felicia Glass-Wilcox said she hoped to start the ceremony a few minutes early, so the vows could be pronounced seconds after midnight.
"We'd like for them to be able to say they are the very first married in the state, but for sure they'll be able to say they're one of the first," Glass-Wilcox said. She said the chapel had four more gay couples booked for weddings in the next five days.
Bartelt, 33, proposed to Petrich, 37, in April in a photo booth at the Bloomington mall. It was a few weeks before the Legislature approved the law, but Bartelt said she was confident by then that it would pass. She had been in contact with a mall employee about the proposal, who later suggested the couple could be first to get married at the chapel.
Bartelt, a health coach, planned to wear an ivory-colored dress, while Petrich, a baker for Mayo Clinic, was wearing an ivory suit. A group of about 50 family members and close friends were planning to join them, including Bartelt's 10-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.
"Everybody deserves the right to be happy," said Bartelt. "That's really what it's all about. It's a big day for us, and a big day for Minnesota, and something I hope my kids look back on some day and say, 'Wow, we got to be part of that.' "