Minnesota and Rhode Island have become the 12th and 13th US states to recognise same-sex marriage after recently passing laws permitting weddings to begin from midnight on Wednesday.
The law for Minnesota came into effect yesterday allowing weddings to begin just after midnight, and 42 couples were expected to be married at Minneapolis City Hall in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Rhode Island also joined Minnesota on Thursday, becoming the last New England state to allow same-sex marriage. Lawmakers in the heavily Catholic state passed the law in May, after more than 16 years of campaigning by equal marriage supporters. The first weddings in Rhode Island were planned for later Thursday morning.
Both Minnesota and Rhode Island will also recognise marriages performed in other states.
The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that from Thursday morning, about 30 percent of the US population now lives in places where same-sex marriage is legal.
In Minnesota, Cathy Ten Broeke and her partner Margaret Miles were the first same-sex couple to be wed at the Minneapolis City Hall.
“I didn’t expect to cry quite that hard,” said Mrs Ten Broeke.
Mike Bolin also went to City Hall to marry his partner of six years, Jay Resch.
Mr Bolin said: “I don’t think either of us ever thought we’d see this day.”
He added: “We met at low points in both of our lives, and to have arrived at this point — there’s going to be a lot of tears”.
Budget officials of Minnesota estimated that about 5,000 gay couples would marry in the first year. Its enactment comes as a fast turnaround after voters rejected a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage last year.
Mr Bolin and Mr Resch celebrated on Wednesday night with several hundred others at a cafe along the Mississippi River north of downtown Minneapolis. Many at the event planned to go to City Hall for the mass nuptials.
In Rhode Island, Democratic State Representative Frank Ferri was set to marry his partner of thirty years, Tony Carparco.
While the two men wed seven years ago when they were on holiday in Canada, Mr Ferry said that a ceremony in his home state would be more meaningful.
Minneapolis couple Mrs Miles and Mrs Ten Broeke said the legalisation of same-sex marriage would end a stigma for both them.
Not long ago, a child told the couple’s 5-year-old son that he could not have two mothers.
“No one can say that anymore,” said Mrs Miles, crying.
In January at Rhode Island, a video depicted hundreds of demonstrators who turned out to protest against the potential change to marriage legislation at hearings.
The video shows a final speaker at the hearing, a young boy, who says: “Let me tell you about my parents. I have two moms and two dads, and an older sister. If you came to our house, you would feel the love that we all have for one another. We laugh a lot, we talk about our feelings, we argue, we are real.
“Having gay parents has changed my life for the better. I am more aware, I am more sensitive to differences in the world, I am much more accepting.
“Having gay marriage won’t change our family, it will change the way that the state, and other people see our family; as normal just like everyone else.
“When I’m a grown up I hope we will look back at this time in history and be amazed that people did not let gay and lesbian couples get married.”