Two by two, couples stepped forward to be married after midnight at Minneapolis City Hall.

“Finally,” read the signs volunteers handed out to the wedding guests.

“Finally,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, keeping a close eye on the clock as it ticked down to midnight and the moment same-sex couples could legally marry in his town.

At the stroke of midnight, he turned to Cathy ten Broeke and Margaret Miles, who stood smiling through their tears, holding hands and wearing the same dresses they wore for their commitment ceremony 12  years ago.

“Margaret and Cathy, by the power now finally vested in me, by the laws of the people of Minnesota, we hereby declare Margaret and Cathy legally married. You may now kiss the bride.”

Afterward, a beaming ten Broeke said she felt “ecstatic….We hoped this day would come, and now it has.”

The couple’s 5-year-old son Louie served as their ringbearer and the newlyweds were particularly delighted that the little boy – who has dealt with classmates who told him that two mommies can’t be married – now has concrete proof that that’s no longer so.

"This makes it easier for him to talk to other kids about his two moms without other kids having questions," Miles said. Now, she hopes, people will see them like any other family. "We mow the lawn and we walk the dog and have really average lives and there's nothing mysterious about it and nothing scary about it."

Stepping into city hall, which was decked with donated flowers for the occasion and crowded to the rafters with wedding guests and 40 other pairs of brides and grooms, she said, “felt like this huge, loving embrace. Not just from the people in this room, but you could just literally almost feel  it coming from across the state.”

They were the first of 42 couples to marry at city hall in the first six hours of Aug. 1, the first day the state’s new same-sex marriage law went into effect.

“I felt as married as I thought I could feel,12 and a half years ago, but tonight I feel even more married,” said Miles, who was wearing a new wedding ring for the occasion – she’d lost the ring from their commitment ceremony years earlier while gardening and this seemed like the right moment to replace the $18 substitute ring she’d been using for years.

The newlyweds were serenaded by the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus, by quintets and quartets and indy musician Jeremy Messersmith. There was wedding cake and confetti and a long parade of other couples patiently waiting their turn to marry at 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and later.

“It was awesome. It was magical,” said Al Giraud, who married Jeff Isaacson,  shortly after ten Broeke and Miles were legally wed.

The crowd in city hall included plenty of political figures, including the authors of the bills that legalized gay marriage – state Sen. Scott Dibble and Rep. Karen Clark. Staffers for U.S. Sen. Al Franken handed out bouquets of roses to the couples.

But Gov. Mark Dayton, who signed the bill legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota, waved off the standing ovation he received from the crowd.

“All I did at the end was sign my name on a piece of paper, which is really not that hard once you get the hang of it,” he said. “The real credit for this transformative event in Minnesota goes to all of you and all the LGBT women and men throughout Minnesota who had the courage to stand up and say, ‘We want the same rights as every other American. It’s our constitutional right, it’s our moral right.”

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