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After 17 years together, Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan couldn't wait another minute to get married. So they didn't.
With Vermont's new law allowing same-sex marriage only a minute old, they tied the knot in a midnight ceremony at a rustic lodge, becoming one of the first couples to legally wed under a law that took effect at midnight Monday.
Dressed in suits, saying their vows under a large wall-mounted moose head, the two Whitehall, N.Y., men promised their love, exchanged rings and held hands during a modest 17-minute ceremony. Moose Meadow Lodge co-owner Greg Trulson, who's also a Justice of the Peace, presided.
"It feels wonderful," said Slimback, 38, an out-of-work Teamster who is taking Sullivan's last name as his own. "It's a day I've been long waiting for, and a day I truly honestly thought would never come."
Slimback said he and Sullivan, 41, have long wanted to cement their relationship with a wedding, but since they couldn't legally marry in New York they chose to wed even before Vermont's gay marriage era officially dawned.
Vermont is one of five states that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa are the others. New Hampshire's law takes effect Jan. 1, 2010.
Vermont, which invented civil unions in 2000 after a same-sex couple challenged the inequality of state marriage statutes, was a mecca for gay couples who to that point had no way to officially recognize their relationships.
Since then, other states have allowed gay marriage, as did Vermont, which in April became the first state to legalize gay marriage through a legislative decree and not a court case.
Some couples - including many who obtained civil unions in Vermont - plan to return to the state to get married. But most are in no rush. City and town officials say only a handful of licenses had been issued to same-sex couples in anticipation of Tuesday's start.
"We've waited a long time to do this - basically, our whole lives," Slimback said Monday. "We've been waiting for a chance to actually solidify it," he said. He and Sullivan said they never wanted to obtain a civil union because they believe that's a kind of second-class recognition.
Gay people aren't the only ones taking note of Vermont's addition to the list of states that allow same-sex unions.
Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay group that claims U.S. combat deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality, planned to picket Tuesday in Montpelier, Vermont's capital.
This program aired on September 1, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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