The District of Columbia joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont in legalizing marriage between same-sex partners.
Same-sex couples filing for licenses in the District were congratulated by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who wished each couple "a long and fulfilling marriage." And D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said, legally, he believes "it was the right decision."
The decision is a victory for gay-rights advocacy groups who last year faced the possibility of ballot initiatives blocking same-sex marriages.
An elated Aisha Mills, president of the Campaign for All DC Families, said she is "proud of our officials here who continue the progressive legacy of the District of Columbia."
"We're all doing great on the legal front," Mills added. "Judges have voted to deny discrimination on the ballot. We are looking to neutralize any threats and keep Congress at bay."
But opponents such as the National Organization for Marriage issued statements saying that they will continue to fight.
"It is very disappointing that voters in the District of Columbia have been precluded from exercising their constitutional right to a referendum," executive director Brian Brown said in a statement, "However, this battle is far from over. While same-sex marriages will be permitted in the District for the time being, NOM will continue to fight to get an initiative on the ballot."
One of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage has been Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland. Bishop Jackson is a member of the coalition Stand4Marriage.
"I think it is a real tragedy that the people of Washington, D.C., never got a chance to weigh in on this," Jackson said, referring to the movement for a ballot initiative defining marriage.
"Our whole thing has always been, 'Let the people vote.' You haven't heard the end of this matter from the people who are fighting. This is a civil-rights issue. People have the right to vote."
Jackson, who is black, added that he rejects the idea of gay marriage as civil-rights issue and believes the true civil-rights violation has been the lack of a ballot initiative.
"My father knew civil rights," he said. "We knew civil rights when they said, 'Go to the back of the bus.' I have a strong opinion and I am against same-sex marriage. I am praying for everyone getting married on Tuesday."
Although much of the opposition come from religious groups, many in the religious community came together to support gay marriage, including more than 200 clergy known as D.C. Clergy United.
"We do not believe sexual orientation is chosen but is how you are created," Pastor Dennis W. Wiley of Covenant Baptist Church in Washington DC said. "We believe that it is possible to support same sex marriage and still be faithful to our religious beliefs and tenets."
Councilman David Catania, who authored the act legalizing same-sex marriage, is perhaps Jackson's most staunch opponent
"This is a journey we have been involved in for decades," Catania said. "What we did was profoundly American. Our city has a rich history of embracing human rights. The population is extremely perceptive to how we expand our human rights."
Catania, who is gay, said the issue of marriage is so important to him that it prompted him to part with the Republican Party in 2004.