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In Vt., same-sex couples rush to wed

Dawn of new law draws cheers, jeers

At a minute after midnight, Bill Slimback, left, and Bob Sullivan, both of Whitehall, N.Y., married in Waterbury, Vt. At a minute after midnight, Bill Slimback, left, and Bob Sullivan, both of Whitehall, N.Y., married in Waterbury, Vt. (Andy Duback/Associated Press)
By John Curran
Associated Press / September 2, 2009

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DUXBURY, Vt. - After 17 years together, Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan couldn’t wait another minute to get married. So they didn’t.

With Vermont’s new law allowing same-sex marriage only a minute old, they tied the knot in a midnight ceremony at a rustic lodge, becoming one of the first couples to legally wed under a law that took effect Tuesday.

The start of same-sex weddings, which came nine years after Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil unions law, prompted demonstrations yesterday in Montpelier and Burlington.

Five members of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, carried antigay signs and sang songs but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators preaching love and tolerance.

The state’s same-sex marriage era dawned well before sunrise, with a pair of midnight weddings.

At the Moose Meadow Lodge in Duxbury, Slimback and Sullivan tied the knot at 12:01 a.m. The two men from Whitehall, N.Y., spoke their vows under a large, wall-mounted moose head, promised their love, exchanged rings, and held hands during a modest 17-minute ceremony. Moose Meadow Lodge co-owner Greg Trulson, who is also a justice of the peace, presided.

“It feels wonderful,’’ said Slimback, 38, an out-of-work Teamster who is taking Sullivan’s last name as his own. “It’s a day I’ve been long waiting for, and a day I truly, honestly thought would never come.’’

Slimback said he and Sullivan, 41, have long wanted to cement their relationship with a wedding, but because they couldn’t legally marry in New York, they chose Vermont.

Vermont is one of four states that allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa are the others.

New Hampshire’s law takes effect on Jan. 1.

Vermont, which invented civil unions in 2000 after a same-sex couple challenged the inequality of state marriage statutes, was a mecca for gay couples who, to that point, had no way to officially recognize their relationships.

Since then, other states have allowed same-sex marriage, as did Vermont, which in April became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through a legislative decree and not a court case.

In another midnight ceremony, Claire Williams, 34, and Cori Giroux, 27, were married in their South Burlington home, with about 20 people attending. They were wed by attorney Beth Robinson, a founder of Vermont Freedom to Marry.