PHILADELPHIA – The first gay marriages entered the history books at Philadelphia City Hall on Friday, as exhilarated couples both young and old exchanged vows.
Eight couples were married in the mayor's gilded reception room, days after a federal judge lifted the state's same-sex marriage ban.
"We couldn't really turn that (offer) down because it is such a historic day for our community, and for Philadelphia," said 32-year-old printing company owner Adam Woods as he prepared to marry actor Justin Jain.
Eight city judges performed the weddings simultaneously as family and friends circled around the couples.
"I'm full of love and pride for our city, our community and each other," said Jain, who is also 32.
Pennsylvania could host scores of same-sex weddings this weekend after a federal judge Tuesday threw the state's 1996 ban on "the ash heap of history." Gov. Tom Corbett, who has fought gay marriage on several fronts, decided Wednesday not to appeal, saying it would be unlikely to succeed.
"Some questions are no-brainers, and hopefully they'll be political nonstarters (now), too," Woods said of the gay community's fight for the right to marry.
He noted that U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who issued the ruling, had been appointed by a Republican president, George W. Bush. The Tuesday afternoon ruling sent Woods and Jain, and other couples around the state, rushing to get a license the same day.
"I'm 51. I never, ever thought I'd see this day. Never," said an emotional Catherine Hennessy, who married longtime partner Kristin Keith, 42. "I'm so excited – more excited than I could have dreamed."
Stern portraits of Philadelphia mayors from earlier centuries stared down at the newlyweds, not that Hennessy noticed.
"I could only look at Kristin," she said. "Time to move forward."
College Spanish teachers Oscar Cabrera and Chris DiCapua said they have not faced any overt discrimination since meeting at the University of Kansas nearly 20 years ago. Nonetheless, the formal recognition of their relationship is important to them.
"It always felt strange that 18-year-olds could marry somebody they met the day before, while we've been together 18 years and couldn't get married," Cabrera said. "We're glad that we live in Philadelphia, which is very, very progressive."
Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott, who married Woods and Jain, noted the diversity in the room. Several couples were of mixed race. Cabrera is from Nicaragua. Jain wore a Barong Tagalog, a traditional Filipino embroidered shirt.
"This is the face of the city today," said McDermott, "and the future of the city."