These four words stood out Monday during each exchange of vows at the Sonoma County Clerk's Office as same-sex couples, many fully partnered for decades, exercised their newly legal right to marry: "my lawfully wedded spouse."
In a scene that was alternately solemn and joyous and celebratory, more than a dozen gay and lesbian pairs rushed to be among the first in line as Sonoma County resumed issuing marriage licenses and performing weddings for couples of the same gender.
"We've been together 21 years. We're ready," said Glen Ellen resident Vicki Basehart, 65, who arrived at 6 a.m. Monday with her partner Sharon Church, 56, to acquire a license for their wedding later this week.
"I never thought I would live to see the day," 91-year-old Don Nicholson said as he and his partner of 48 years, Phillip Johnson, 72, shared their first moments as a married couple.
Almost three dozen people were crowded into the hallway outside the County Clerk's Office when the doors opened at 8 a.m., including more than a half-dozen couples visibly excited by the prospect of having the rights and recognition newly available to them.