BALTIMORE - Seven gay couples in Maryland rang in the New Year with wedding bells early Tuesday, the first wave of nuptials since voters in the state backed the legalization of same-sex marriage.
The couples were "lawfully married" rather than pronounced "husband and wife" at the 12:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) ceremony on New Year's Day in Baltimore's City Hall.
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. Scales and Tasker said they had been together for 35 years.
The mayor joked that everyone had come to celebrate a relationship that began many years ago - "and I mean that, many years ago."
Soon after the November vote legalizing gay marriage, Scales, a long-time city employee, asked the mayor to marry the two.
"She wanted to make a statement to tell gay, lesbian, transgendered couples that they're welcome here," said the mayor's press secretary Ian Brennan of her decision.