As gay activists nationwide remain preoccupied with sweeping protests in California over passage of a gay marriage ban, Connecticut quietly started issuing gay marriage licenses today.

Clerks were emailed shortly after 9:30 a.m. that they could begin issuing gay marriage licenses, Manchester Town Clerk Joseph Camposeo, president of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association told The Associated Press.

Peg Oliveira and Jennifer Vickery were the first couple to be married in a brief ceremony led by a state appellate court judge.

“I feel so happy,” Vickery, a 44-year-old lawyer, told The Associated Press. “It's so much more emotional than I expected.”

The Connecticut Supreme Court announced October 10th that gay couples have the right to marry, just five months after the California Supreme Court concluded the same, becoming only the third state in the United States to allow gay marriage after Massachusetts and California.

“Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice,” the justices wrote. “To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others.”

“[S]ame sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.”

Connecticut enacted civil unions for gay couples in 2005. And in 2007 the state legislature introduced a bill that would allow gay marriage in the state, but failed to vote on it.

In their 4-3 Kerrigan and Mock V. Connecticut Department of Public Health decision the justices said marriage was a constitutional right that could not be denied.

But on Election Day, 18,000 California gay couples who had married between June and November found themselves in legal limbo as voters approved a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in the state, leaving only Connecticut and Massachusetts to recognize gay marriage.

In Connecticut, voters rejected a ballot initiative that would have forced an expensive constitutional convention to discuss amending the state's constitution with a provision banning gay marriage.

Crestfallen gay activists see Connecticut as a bittersweet victory after losing California.

“The beginning of marriage equality in Connecticut today is a reminder that, despite our setback at the polls on November 4, we continue to make progress in our work to recognize and respect every family,” Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Director of Communications Steve Ralls told On Top Magazine in an email.

“After a week of historic highs and heart-breaking lows, we can find great hope, and inspiration, in what is happening in Connecticut today,” Ralls said.

Gay marriage foes in Connecticut have vowed to ban gay marriage in the state.