A member of the Connecticut state legislature and her partner became the first same-sex couple to legally marry in the US state this morning.

State Representative Beth Bye and Tracey Wilson exchanged vows half an hour after Superior Court Judge Jonathan E. Silbert signed an order granting marriage licences to gay and lesbian couples.

“I think for us, we really were married three years ago in our church,” Ms Bye said. “But it feels different that our state is saying, ‘now you’re married. You have the same rights as everyone else.'”

The Supreme Court of Connecticut overturned a ban on gay marriage last month, ruling that stopping same-sex partners from marrying was a violation of their constitutional rights.

Republican state Governor Jodi Rell said that although she disagreed with the judgement, she would uphold it.

“I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut,” she said.

“However, I am also firmly convinced that attempts to reverse this decision, either legislatively or by amending the state Constitution, will not meet with success.”

The judgement followed a case that began four years ago when eight same-sex couples sued the state arguing that by not allowing them to marry, the state discriminated against them in volitional of their constitutional rights.

The majority 4-3 opinion said that the “segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognisable harm.”

In the courtroom today were the eight plaintiff couples who started the case in August 2004 – Beth Kerrigan and Jody Mock, Suzanne and Geraldine Artis with their three sons, Jeffrey Busch and Stephen Davis, Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman, John Anderson and Garrett Stack, Janet Peck and Carol Conklin, J.E. Martin and Denise Howard, and Damaris Navarro and Gloria Searson.

Many became teary-eyed as the judgment was entered.

After the court proceedings, three of the couples – the Levine-Rittermans, Ms. Searson and Ms. Navarro, and Ms. Kerrigan and Ms. Mock – proceeded to their town halls to apply for marriage licences. All eight couples are making plans to get married within the next year.

Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who brought the case to court, said:

“So many people have worked long and hard to make this a reality.

“We congratulate them all, and give special thanks to our plaintiff couples. After four years of giving their all, they will finally be able to say ‘I do’ to the person they love.”

Gay marriage was banned in California on November 4th after voters approved a ballot proposition that aims to change the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Proposition 8 was put to Californians after the state Supreme Court ruled in May that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry.

An estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in California between June and November. Their marriages are still legal. Prop 8 faces a range of legal challenges in the state Supreme Court.

Californian gay and lesbian couples can still register domestic partnerships.