Updated: 08/01/2013 11:04 AM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen
Same-sex marriages began in Rhode Island on Thursday, as local officials for the first time issued marriage licenses to gay couples who wish to wed in the state.
Gay marriage became legal in Rhode Island and Minnesota at 12:01 a.m., bringing the number of states allowing same-sex marriage to 13.
Kent Stetson and Luis Astudillo were among the first same-sex couples in Rhode Island to tie the knot, obtaining a marriage license minutes after Providence City Hall opened at 8:30. Shortly afterward, they were married on a downtown street where they took a memorable walk on their first date 12 years ago. A friend presided over the low-key ceremony.
"We are securing our rights today. We would have been married years ago if we could," said Stetson, a 34-year-old handbag designer.
Astudillo, a 47-year-old teacher, added: "I thought it would be like an errand today. But I'm a little nervous - and excited."
In Newport, a couple that have been together for 41 years, Federico Santi and John Gacher, were previously joined in a civil union, so they were immediately married Thursday after getting their license. They had no plans for an extravagant ceremony, saying that in their eyes, their marriage began in August 1972.
"It's certainly not going to change our lives, but it's going to change the lives of lots of young people, and that's what we are really proud of: that now they have the opportunity to get married if they choose to," Santi said.
Newport City Clerk Kathleen Silvia, who issued the license and has known Santi for 28 years, called Thursday "a day of smooching" in Rhode Island.
In communities including Cranston and Providence, a small number of protesters gathered outside city halls but were far outnumbered by supporters of gay marriage.
The state's new law will automatically recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
States like Massachusetts and California saw long lines and scores of weddings on the day gay marriages began. But with gay marriage already an option everywhere else in New England, town clerks and advocates who fought for the new law predict a relatively calm day.
Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, said many couples plan to obtain marriage licenses for weddings later in the year while others are waiting until next year.
State Rep. Frank Ferri, D-Warwick, got into politics after being an early advocate for same-sex marriage. He and longtime partner Tony Caparco were married in Canada in 2006 but plan a second wedding Thursday. House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay, plans to preside over the ceremony in front of hundreds of invited guests.
"We pass a lot of good laws but this one stands in the realm of history," said Fox, D-Providence.
No significant problems with the new marriage law were reported. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who planned to marry a couple in his City Hall office later Thursday, said he was delighted to witness the first day of gay marriages.
"Today is a day for justice and fairness," he said as he greeted couples obtaining licenses.
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