By Todd Melby
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Surrounded by nearly 1,000 people in the marble rotunda of Minneapolis City Hall, Margaret Miles and Cathy ten Broeke were the first gay couple to tie the knot in Minnesota, one of two states where same-sex marriage became legal on Thursday.
"By the power now finally invested in me," said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to boisterous cheers from family members and supporters of gay marriage, "I hereby declare Margaret and Cathy legally married."
The couple's five-year-old son, wearing a black tuxedo, participated in the ceremony along with a gay men's chorus wearing black T-shirts declaring, "Marry Us."
Miles, 49, fell in love with ten Broeke, 44, while working at a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless.
The couple wanted to marry more than a decade ago, but the law prevented it. So they settled for a commitment ceremony and a mountain of paperwork to legally merge their lives.
Now that Minnesota has officially sanctioned gay marriage, the couple said they will no longer worry about their legal status.
Rhode Island - one hour ahead on eastern time - and Minnesota on Thursday became the 12th and 13th states to sanction gay nuptials. Minnesota became the second in the Midwest, after Iowa.
In Rhode Island, the smallest U.S. state by area and the last in New England to legalize gay marriage, Democratic state Representative Frank Ferri will wed his partner of three decades, Tony Carparco.
While the two men wed seven years ago when they vacationed in Canada, Ferri - who helped lead the drive for legalization in Rhode Island - said Thursday's ceremony in their home state would be more meaningful.
Minneapolis couple Miles and ten Broeke said the legalization of gay marriage would end a stigma for them.
Not long ago, a child told the couple's 5-year-old son that he could not have two mothers. "No one can say that anymore," said Miles, crying.
Michelle Farley and Leisha Suggs plan to exchange vows on the rooftop of a Japanese restaurant on the south side of Minneapolis before a small group of friends. Farley, 35, and Suggs, 28, fell in love while attending the University of Maryland seven years ago.
When the couple moved to Minnesota — a place they perceived as progressive — they were shocked to see a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the 2012 ballot. "It was very scary," Farley said.
Minnesota voters rejected the proposal and elected a Democratic majority to the state Legislature. Those lawmakers voted in May to make gay marriage legal.
In the hours before gay marriage became legal in the state, Paul Portenlanger, 40, and Gregg Bell, 43, held hands as they strolled along the banks of the Mississippi River. The couple, who were married three years ago in Washington, D.C., were on their way to a pre-marriage party.
Both men plan to skip work on Thursday, search local parks for gay marriages and drink champagne, they said.
(Reporting by Todd Melby in Minneapolis and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Providence, Rhode Island; Editing by Greg McCune and John Stonestreet)