SEATTLE-- Dozens of same-sex Washington state couples have obtained their marriage licenses -- just hours after the law legalizing gay marriage took effect.

Washington state joins several other states that allow gay and lesbian couples to wed after voters approved Referendum 74 last month.

The measure asked voters to either approve or reject the state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. Nearly 54 percent approved.

King County opened the doors to its auditor's office just after midnight Thursday to start distributing marriage licenses. Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the law hours earlier on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people waited on a chilly night for hours, but the mood was festive. Some people sang "Going to the Chapel."

By MANUEL VALDES, Associated Press