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Seattle holds first same-sex weddings

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Nancy Monahan, right, wears her dress uniform and holds her marriage license as her soon-to-be bride Deb Needham wipes away tears as they wait at Seattle City Hall to become among the first gay couples to legally wed in the state on Sunday. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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It felt like a "royal wedding," said one same-sex couple as they left Seattle City Hall Sunday.

They were met by hundreds of supporters who lined the stairs and streets to congratulate some of the first gay and lesbian couples to get married in Washington state.

"Everyone is really happy and excited," said Laura DeMarco, who handed newlyweds pink and yellow roses as they came outside. "People are blowing bubbles, there are bells and everyone's smiling. Everyone is just really happy to be here and to watch these people get married today."

City Hall hosted 140 weddings Sunday.

Sixteen judges volunteered their time and performed ceremonies from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the grand lobby, which was bustling in preparation for the event early in the morning.

Volunteers rushed to put final touches on a reception area and five alters, which were decorated and designed by local artists Jennifer Zeyl and Celeste Cooning.

Each ceremony lasted roughly 15 minutes.

Keith Bacon and Corianton Hale, who have been together for six years, struggled to hold back tears as they read their vows to each other.

"We're elated, excited, and super-proud," Hale said afterward.

The couple was congratulated by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, whose wife was also present and burst into tears as Hale and Bacon were pronounced "husband and husband."

"We're a stronger city when people can marry who they want and be who they are," Mayor McGinn told reporters.

He declared Sunday "Marriage Equality Day" in the city of Seattle.

Crowds gathered on City Hall's Fourth Avenue Plaza and enjoyed food trucks and coffee throughout the afternoon. For those who could not attend, the city offered a live stream of the event, photos and personal stories in the Seattle blog, and Twitter updates with the hashtag: #MEdayWA.

A large public reception was planned at the Paramount Theatre from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a measure legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington state. The law took effect Thursday. King County and Thurston County opened their auditors' offices shortly after midnight Wednesday to accommodate those who wanted to be among the first to get their licenses.

Because the state has a three-day waiting period, couples had to wait until Sunday to get married.

The law does not require religious organizations or churches to perform marriages, and will not 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 on Friday said 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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