imagesHONOLULU (AP) — Six same-sex couples tied the knot in Hawaii early Monday, moments after a law granting them the right to do so took effect in the state often credited with starting the national gay marriage debate.

Even more couples watched and waited their turn at the Waikiki resort.

Across town, an openly gay Unitarian minister wed his partner of 15 years in a ceremony attended by clergy who pushed for the new law, plus Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who called the special legislative session that led to the law.

“It’s about making that commitment to the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with,” said Saralyn Morales, moments after cutting a small wedding cake after marrying her partner, Isajah Morales.

Hawaii’s gay marriage debate began in 1990 when two women applied for a marriage license, leading to a court battle and a 1993 state Supreme Court decision that said their rights to equal protection were violated by not letting them marry.

That helped lead Congress to pass the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, which denied federal benefits to gay couples. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the act this year.

An additional 14 states and the District of Columbia also allow same-sex marriage. Illinois was the 16th state to legalize it, and the law takes effect June 1.

Hawaii’s marriage laws allow couples to register for a license and be married the same day, a process conducive for tourists only in the state a short time.

Couples can sign up for a license online, then be verified by any license agent throughout the state. Agents have set up shop throughout the islands, from resorts on Maui and the Big Island to hard-to-reach places on Kauai.