Seven gay couples were married on the New Year’s first moments, in Maryland, with thousands of same-sex couples to follow, after the state legalized gay marriage.
The couples were pronounced lawfully married at half past midnight during a ceremony on New Year's Day (1 January 2013) in Baltimore's City Hall, the state's largest city.
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiated at the wedding of the first of the couples, 68-year-old James Scales and 60-year-old William Tasker.
The couple have been together for 35 years.
According to The Guardian, the mayor jokingly remarked that everyone present arrived to celebrate their relationship which begun ‘many years ago – and I mean that, many years ago’.
Ian Brennan, the mayor's press secretary said Rawlings-Blake ‘wanted to make a statement to tell gay, lesbian, transgendered couples that they're welcome here’.
Voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex unions on election day, becoming the only states to pass such a measure via a referendum.
In Maryland voters backed marriage equality with 52.4% majority on 6 November.
Nine of the 50 US states along with the capital, Washington DC, have legalized gay marriage.
Thirty-one states have passed constitutional amendments banning it.
Rawlings-Blake called the 6 November vote ‘a remarkable achievement for Maryland’ welcoming friends and families of the couples to witness history at the early morning ceremony.
She said: ‘We are excited to open City Hall to host some of the first wedding ceremonies in our great state’.
US public opinion has been shifting in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. A Pew research center survey from October found that 49% of Americans favored allowing gay marriage, with 40% opposed.
In May, Barack Obama became the first US president to say he believed same-sex couples should be allowed to get married.
Washington state's law legalizing same-sex unions took effect on 9 December; Maine followed on 29 December.
Illinois maybe the next US state to legalize same-sex marriage.
The Chicago Tribune reported that lawmakers are considering to passing the ‘Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act’, as early as this week.
Earlier this week US president Obama urged lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in Illinois.