LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Timothy Love was at the head of the line Friday with his same-sex partner of 35 years to obtain the marriage license he fought for in the courts.
Cheers went up from friends and supporters when the paperwork was completed in the county clerk's office, a few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex couples have a right to marry in all 50 states. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer handed the couple a bottle of champagne.
Love and his partner, Larry Ysunza, had been at the clerk's office before, only to be denied a marriage license. Love was the lead plaintiff in the case that led a federal judge to strike down Kentucky's ban on gay marriage — a precursor to the historic ruling by the high court.
"We wanted to be here first in line because we were the ones who were denied," said Love, his arm draped over Ysunza's shoulder.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told county clerks to immediately issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe. But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act," Beshear wrote in a letter to the clerks. "Effective today, Kentucky will recognize as valid all same sex marriages performed in other states and in Kentucky."
The ruling drew elation from gay-rights supporters as same-sex couples started obtaining marriage licenses in Louisville.
"When you grow up different, all you want to be is like everyone else," said Benjamin Moore, dressed in a tuxedo along with Tadd Roberts as the couple received a marriage license. "It's just been incredible and historic and amazing to live this moment."
They were married in a brief ceremony in the clerk's office.
About 200 jubilant gay-rights supporters rallied in downtown Louisville on Friday evening. Participants chanted "Love Wins" before the event was cut short by a thunderstorm that dumped heavy rain.
"Today the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed what we all knew, that our love is equal, our love is worthy and our love is legal," said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who is gay, called it a historic day that "means a lot to me personally." He spoke to a boisterous crowd at the Fairness Awards at Keeneland on Friday night, calling the ruling "another milestone in the long arch of freedom's history."
"The marriage bans have been repealed and now all committed couples can speak those two simple words: 'I do,'" Gray said. "Tonight is a celebration of marriage. Yes, of equality and of fairness. It is a celebration of our time," he said.
Same-sex couples in some parts of Kentucky will have to wait until next week before obtaining marriage licenses, even though the Department of Libraries and Archives sent a gender neutral form to county clerks.
Warren County Clerk Lynette Yates said she relies on a computer program to generate and print those forms. Yates said it would be Tuesday at the latest before the company could update the forms.
Kentucky had amended its state constitution in 2004 to prohibit same-sex marriage. An overwhelming margin among Kentucky voters ratified the change.
The Supreme Court ruling nullifying that constitutional provision prompted sharp reaction from some Kentucky political leaders.
State Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he had never been more disappointed with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling or its rationale. "The court has ruled," he said. "Do we have to live by it? Yes. Do we have to like it? No."
Matt Bevin, the Republican nominee for governor, said "activist judges" are ignoring the will of the people and the constitutional principle of states' rights. He called the ruling "regrettable" and criticized his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Jack Conway, for not pursuing the state's appeal to the Supreme Court.
Conway said the ruling makes it clear "the government cannot pick and choose when it comes to issuing marriage licenses and the benefits they confer." He said he did his duty as attorney general in defending Kentucky's constitutional amendment against gay marriage, but declined to participate in the appeal because he agreed with a lower court ruling that the amendment was unconstitutional.
Conway said it's time for Kentucky to move forward "because the good-paying jobs are going to states that are inclusive."
The Rev. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, denounced the Supreme Court decision as "a central assault upon marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman" and a threat to religious liberty.
Beam reported from Frankfort and Lexington, Kentucky. Associated Press Writers Claire Galofaro and Dylan Lovan in Louisville contributed to this report.