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Gay couples begin exchanging vows at Midnight in Vermont

Gay MarriageSame-sex couples in Vermont began exchanging vows at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday morning, taking advantage of the state’s new marriage equality law.

Bill Slimback and Bob Sullivan (pictured) were among the the first same-sex couples to legally marry under the new law that took effect at 12 a.m. September 1.

Slimback and Sullivan have been together for 17 years and live in Whitehall, New York. The couple couldn’t legally marry in New York so they chose to exchange vows in Vermont.

Vermont legalized gay marriage earlier this year after state lawmakers overrode Governor Jim Douglas’ veto of the same-sex marriage bill by a 100 to 49 vote in the state House and 23 to 5 vote in the state Senate. It is the first state to approve gay marriage through legislation and not a court ruling.

Vermont became the first state to give civil recognition to gay and lesbian couples when it established civil unions in the state in 2000. At the time, the law granted same-sex partners the most comprehensive domestic partner benefits in the nation, qualifying them for more than 300 rights and benefits available to married couples in the state.

The other U.S. states that have approved gay marriage laws are Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s law will take effect January 1, 2010.

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