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Northampton gays march, many ready to marry

NORTHAMPTON -- Throngs of people lined the downtown streets of this city yesterday as hundreds of same-sex couples, some of whom plan to marry, participated in the city's annual gay and lesbian pride march.

Led by two all-women motorcycle groups from Boston and New York City, marchers -- most of them women, and many with children in tow -- carried balloons, rainbow flags, and signs celebrating the upcoming legality of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

Observers along the two-mile parade route, and at the rally that followed, chatted about May 17, when same-sex couples will be first able to apply for marriage licenses in the state.

During the march, the 23d annual, the Freedom Trail Band of Boston broke into a rendition of the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love" as the parade proceeded down Main Street.

"We're tired of just shacking up," said Mary Savarese, who says she plans to marry her partner of seven years, Jean Azzato, later this month.

"The fact that a male and female couple has been able to get benefits that have been denied to us has been unjust," Azzato said. "We're just looking for basic equality."

Azzato, Savarese, and other couples say they're planning to line up for licenses hours before Northampton City Hall opens at 8:30 a.m. May 17. Mayor Mary Clare Higgins said that the city won't start accepting marriage license applications before regular business hours May 17.

"The whole point of this is that we're all equal," said Higgins, who is a lesbian. "We open at 8:30 for everyone."

Under state law, all couples must wait three days from the time they apply for a license until they can pick it up and get married, though a judge can waive that three-day rule.

"I have 12 weddings booked for the two-week period after the 20th," said J. Mary Sorrell, a Northampton justice of the peace.

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