Gay couples from across America are now taking part in wedding ceremonies in California after the Californian Supreme Court approved gay marriage.

The 15th May decision has meant that couples from 5pm on Monday have been able to apply for a marriage license.

A study by UCLA sugests that half of of California’s 102,639 gay couples and 68,000 out of staters are preparing to marry in the state. The research, by the university’s Williams Institute says it could bring in $684m (£348.5m) of revenue with including $64m (£32.6) in tax.

“These are not folks who just met each other last week and said, `Let’s get married.’ These are folks who have been together in some cases for decades,” Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Associated Press. “They are married in their hearts and minds, but they have never been able to have that experience of community and common humanity.”

Indeed among the first will be gay rights campaigners Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who have been in a relationship for 56 years.

A CBS poll has shown that 58% of Americans support either gay marriages or civil unions, just 36% are opposed to any legal recognition.

Unlike Massachusetts, where gay marriages have been held since 2004, California does not require those marrying to be residents in the state. The attorney general of New York has already said that it will recognise those who marry in California.

“If marriages performed outside of New York are going to be recognized, I’m sure it won’t be too long before New Yorkers will be able to be married in their own state. So already it is having an impact that crosses the impact to the Atlantic Coast,” Star Trek actor George Takei who played Mr Sulu is marrying his partner Brad Altman said.

“We are boldly going where no one has gone before,” he quipped to Reuters.

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles together with six bishops in a statement said that they would treat gay couples sensitively but added “the church cannot approve of redefining marriage, which has a unique place in God’s creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship in order to nurture and support the new life for which marriage is intended.

“The meaning of marriage is deeply rooted in history and culture, and has been shaped considerably by Christian tradition. Its meaning is given, not constructed. When marriage is redefined so as to make other relationships equivalent to it, the institution of marriage is devalued and further weakened.”

Last month the state Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples cannot be excluded from marriage.

A poll released earlier in May found that the majority of Californians, 51%, back gay marriage.
43% oppose same-sex marriages in the state.

Only 40% said they would back changing the state constitution to exclude gay and lesbian couples from marriage. 54% oppose a change, as does California’s Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Opponents of the Supreme Court’s decision have collected enough signatures of opposition to force the state to put the issue to voters directly.

Campaigners colected 694,354 signatures, enough for a ballot proposition to be put to California voters on the same day as the US Presidential and Congress elections.

They wish the state’s constitution to define marriage as being “between a man and a woman ”
During the 2006 midterm and 2004 Presidential elections, the issue was also put to voters.