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Legal at last

A SIGN HELD in the cheering crowd outside Boston City Hall captured the emotions of the day: "Finally!"

Inside, gay and lesbian couples filled out the paperwork to obtain marriage licenses, as did their counterparts in city halls across the state -- and as heterosexual couples have done for centuries.

This first day of legal same-sex marriage in Massachusetts -- the only state in the country that allows it -- was a day to celebrate the historic and to relish the mundane.

"This is normal," said Guy Pugh, a physician, who stood with Steven Yakutis, who teaches at Emerson College. They have been partners for eight years and have two children, ages 3 and 8. Like most couples, they paid $50 to file an "intention of marriage" form and will get their license in three days. Couples wishing to marry yesterday could pay extra for a waiver to speed the process. Pugh and Yakutis noted that the media probably wouldn't descend on straight couples to ask how it felt to get a license and that soon same-sex applications will be old news.

That sounds about right, for acceptance under the law is coming long after gay and lesbian couples have been embraced by their communities, places of worship, employers, childrens' schools, and pop culture.

Still, holding that piece of paper did feel special yesterday -- and Pugh, like many others, had a camera to record the occasion. Couples coming out of City Hall proudly waved their applications and cried and laughed as they were handed roses and hugged.

"We're stepping into the shared cultural understanding of marriage," said Joanne Frustaci, who will wed her partner when her supportive father gets out of the hospital. "We uphold the sanctity of marriage."

A downright conservative notion -- and anyone fearing this change would have been heartened by the joy and respect expressed for the right to legalize commitment and love. As if to punctuate that thought, a chorus of voices broke into "American the Beautiful" -- and it was indeed beautiful. CORRECTION -- An editorial yesterday misstated the name of Julie Goodridge, one of the gay marriage plaintiffs. 

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