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By and Rick Klein
Globe Staff / May 17, 2004

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Massachusetts becomes the first state in the nation today to permit gay and lesbian couples to wed, after centuries of religious, social, and legal obstacles that have prevented people of the same sex from marrying in the United States.

The first same-sex couples were expected to apply for licenses at Cambridge City Hall at a minute past midnight, following a wedding cake-and-champagne celebration presided over by Mayor Michael A. Sullivan. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, couples had to wait until city and town clerks' offices opened this morning to apply for licenses to marry.

Armed with a judge's waiver of the state's three-day waiting period, some couples were expected to be married by day's end. All seven plaintiff couples who brought the case that led to the historic Supreme Judicial Court ruling last November legalizing gay marriage were expected to marry today. Other couples planned marriages today, but many want to wait until later this week or beyond.

"It is an historic day," said Mary Bonauto, the legal director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which brought the suit that led to the SJC decision granting same-sex couples marriage rights. "This is extraordinarily significant on a personal level, and for the history of our country. Our country has always promised we are all equal under the law, and tomorrow, more citizens will be equal under the law than has been the case to date."