Published: Jul 25, 2011 1:46 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 25, 2011 12:47 AM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) - There have been cheers and tears across New York state as gay couples married on the day same-sex weddings became legal in the state.
 
They lined up starting at midnight from Niagara Falls to Long Island, and signs of pent-up emotion were common after many had waited years for the opportunity. In Manhattan, the first couple to marry were 77-year-old Phyllis Siegel and 85-year-old Connie Kopelov who have been together for 23 years. After the ceremony, Siegel says she "almost couldn't breathe" because of the excitement.
 
Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls the issue one of equality and nondiscrimination. He says allowing gay marriage will ensure couples have rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation, insurance and pension benefits for same sex partners.
 
However, not all New Yorkers are pleased about the new law. Thousands of protesters attended rallies in several cities. One group called the National Organization for Marriage complains that lawmakers redefined marriage without giving voters a chance to have their say.