PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- In massive group celebrations and in quieter individual ceremonies, gay couples began exchanging vows Thursday in Minnesota and Rhode Island as the roster of places where same-sex couples can wed grew to more than a quarter of U.S. states.
Dozens of gay couples began getting hitched at the stroke of midnight in Minnesota, the largest state in the Midwest where it is now legal to do so. In Rhode Island, the last New England state to allow same-sex marriage, the first weddings started at 8:30 a.m., when municipal offices opened.
Kent Stetson and Luis Astudillo were among the first gay couples in Rhode Island to tie the knot. They got a marriage license at Providence City Hall and shortly afterward married on a downtown street where they took a memorable walk on their first date 12 years ago.
"We are securing our rights today. We would have been married years ago if we could," said Stetson, 34.
As of Thursday, same-sex couples can marry in 13 states and in Washington, D.C. The national gay rights group Freedom to Marry estimates that 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives in places where gay marriage is legal.
In Minneapolis, an estimated 1,000 people packed into City Hall at midnight to celebrate 46 same-sex weddings officiated by Mayor R.T. Rybak. Several Hennepin County judges performed 21 more in the City Council's chambers.
"I didn't expect to cry quite that hard," said a beaming Cathy ten Broeke, who with Margaret Miles was the first gay couple to be wed at City Hall.