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Same-sex couples marry on historic first day in Hawaii

By Michael Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 12:55 p.m. HST, Dec 2, 2013

They had waited so long, kept their faith through so many pitched political battles, that even up to the moment he and his husband-to-be took their place next to the five other history-making couples, Shaun Campbell still wasn't sure it was really going to happen.

"I always felt that it would happen when it happened but I didn't know whether we were at that moment in history just yet," said Campbell, who married partner Tony Singh in a ceremony at the Sheraton Waikiki held just after the so-called Hawaii Marriage Equality Act took effect Monday at midnight.

Campbell and Singh joined same-sex couples Keola Akana and Ethan Wung, Gary Bradley and Paul Perry, Donna Gedge and Monica Montgomery, Saralyn and Isajah Morales, and Richard Rosehill and Shawna Okami in the historic trip down the aisle.

More photos: Six same-sex couples marry on historic first day in Hawaii

The event was coordinated by representatives from Citizens for Equal Rights, GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, Honolulu Pride, Integrity Hawaii, PFLAG Oahu, Pride Alliance Hawaii, Pride@Work Hawaii in conjunction with the Sheraton Waikiki.

Campbell, the founder of a nonprofit biocultural conservation organization, met Singh on a blind date on Waikiki Beach more than five years ago.

"He has the biggest heart of anyone I know," Campbell said of his new husband. "We take care of each other through all of the ups and downs. We've shared so many challenges and successes that I knew we could spend the rest of our lives together."

Singh, who has applied for immigration asylum to avoid persecution in his home country, said he and Campbell share the same love of community and commitment to charity.

"We have similar values," Singh said. "We do whatever we can to look out not just for our friends but for anyone who needs help."

The early-morning ceremony was delayed about 40 minutes by computer glitches as the six couples applied for their marriage licenses online as soon as they were available at midnight. Still, the delay did nothing to damper the mood of the hundreds of friends and family on hand to see the couples marry.

The first loud cheer came at midnight, when same-sex couples married in other states were officially recognized under Hawaii law.

"The state did the right thing," said Tambry Young of Citizens for Equal Rights. "It took courage for those legislators who voted in favor of the bill. It was an important step in standing up for the right thing."

Young married Suzanne King in Salem, Mass., in 2009. The irony that she couldn't do the same at the Waikiki Beach of her home state nipped at Young until midnight on Monday.

After an opening oli by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu and a ballad-like rendition of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by Starr Kalahiki, the six couples strode down the aisle and were met by their own officiants.

"Give them a round of applause," announced organizer Michael Golojuch as the couples completed their vows and turned toward the audience. "This is history!"

Afterward, an exhausted but elated Golojuch reflected on the greater meaning of the event.

"This is not just a new day in Hawaii," he said. "This is a new era of acceptance, love and justice for everyone who calls Hawaii home."

About 36 other couples also attended the event so they wouldn't have to wait until the state Department of Health office opened to apply for their own marriage licenses.

Renea Stewart and Lisa Veneri of Hawaii Kai joined the line around 12:30 a.m. They plan to be married later today.

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