HONOLULU - Hawaii issued 40 licenses for same-sex marriages Monday as gay marriages began in the state with six couples at a Waikiki resort exchanging vows side-by-side in front of a few hundred guests.

The state began accepting applications for licenses on its website at midnight. Almost all of the licenses were for couples on Oahu, said state Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo. One license was for a couple on Maui.

Saralyn Morales was among the six couples who tied the knot at the Waikiki resort shortly after the new law took effect.

"It's about making that commitment to the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with," she said shortly after cutting a small wedding cake with her spouse, Isajah Morales.

Okubo said the Health Department already has certified one same-sex marriage and was verifying documents for two dozen more. The state has up to two days to issue a marriage certificate once a marriage is performed if a couple obtains their license online.

Hawaii helped start the national gay marriage discussion more than two decades ago when a same-sex couple was denied a marriage license, leading to a court fight that eventually prompted Congress to pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Part of that law, which stipulated that marriage was between a man and woman, was struck down earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Hawaii, and officials believe the islands will benefit from the new law. An estimate from a University of Hawaii researcher says the state will get a $217 million tourism boost over the next three years as a result of gay marriage.

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie last month signed legislation allowing gay marriage. Lawmakers passed the bill after a special legislative session.