Gay couples sleepless in Seattle

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HUNDREDS of same-sex couples have started collecting marriage licences after a US state passed the measure into law last week.

Officials in King County, Washington State, opened offices in Seattle just after midnight on Wednesday to start issuing the licences. Hundreds of people began lining up hours earlier, with the queue stretching around the downtown Seattle building.

By Thursday afternoon, 489 licences had been issued. The state sets a three-day waiting period, meaning its first gay marriages will take place on Sunday. Nearly 54 per cent of voters supported the equal marriage law.