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Thirty-three gay and straight couples were married live at the Grammy Awards last night in an emotionally-charged performance celebrating a year where the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down and scores of states legalized same-sex unions.
Queen Latifah officiated the mass wedding during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' powerful rendition of their song 'Same Love,' which has become a marriage equality anthem.
Following the vows, delivered as the stage was transformed into a makeshift church, with an alter and stained glass windows, Madonna, wearing a white suit and hat, performed 'Open Your Heart' to a standing ovation and tears from not just the brides and grooms but celebrity guests including Keith Urban.
Lewis' own sister Laura even was part of the mass wedding, tying the knot with her boyfriend, Alex.
Queen Latifah was recently deputized by Los Angeles County to legally conduct wedding ceremonies and will sign the marriage certificates for each couple. The lovers stood on platforms in the crowded venue as they exchanged rings and said 'I do' during the performance.
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Macklemore (L), Ryan Lewis (2nd R), Mary Lambert (2nd L), Madonna (C) embrace on stage after performing the song 'Same Love' while Queen Latifah officiated over a mass wedding at the Grammy Awards
The performers also embraced Queen Latifah onstage during the performance, who acted as officiant
Couples teared up during the mass wedding on Sunday night
One of the couples at the ceremony were caught beaming as newlyweds
Dressed in a sparkling evening dress, Queen Latifah glowed as she introduced Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
'Music has the power to bring people together at the Grammys,' the actress and talk show host said. 'This song is a love song not for some of us but all of us!'
Macklemore was dressed in a velvet suit with a bolo tie, and vocalist Mary Lambert, wearing a sparking red evening gown, performed next to him, as did Trombone Shorty and producer Ryan Lewis kept a low profile, standing further back on stage.
The rapper was full of adrenalin as he delivered lyrics like: 'The right-wing conservatives think it's a decision/And you can be cured with some treatment and religion/Man-made rewiring of a predisposition. Playing God, aw nah here we go/America the brave still fears what we don't know/And God loves all his children, is somehow forgotten/But we paraphrase a book written 3500 years ago.'
That's when Queen Latifah reemerged on stage, introducing the couples.
'It is my distinct honor to ask the participants to exchange rings,' she said.
She then acted as officiant for the lovers, who stood on platforms away from the stage in an array of formal and casual wedding attire.
One of the couples married during the awards ceremony included Spencer Stout and Dustin Reeser, whose Home Depot marriage proposal went viral, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. They are planning a ceremony later in the week for family and friends.
An intimate moment was captured from one bride during the Grammy's mass wedding portion
One happy couple wore what appear to be matching sunglasses for the big day
Both passionate kisses and tender embraces were on display, as shown by these couples
Katy Perry caught the bouquet during Sunday's ceremony, expressing her support for the newlyweds
Once the official business was taken care of, Madonna joined the performers onstage, singing 'Open Your Heart' as the newlyweds kissed, hugged, laughed and cried. The married couples then moved along to the music, as a backing gospel choir joined in.
The couples walked down the center aisle of the theater away from the stage as Mary Lambert joined Madonna for a duet performance.
Country singer Keith Urban was seen with tears in his eyes during the performance.
Celebrity fans of the performance included Neil Patrick Harris and Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter.
Patrick Harris wrote, 'My face hurts from smiling. That was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to see. Much much love. Well done, Grammys.'
DeGeneres tweeted, '#SameLove was incredible. Love to @Macklemore, @RyanLewis, @MaryLambertSing @Madonna & @IAmQueenLatifah for a beautiful performance #GRAMMYs.'
Other Twitter users announced their support. One user wrote 'I would never stop telling people Beyonce and Jay-Z were at my wedding. #GRAMMYs'
However, some were predictably critical of the surprise performance.
Snap happy: Anna Kendrick sneaked over with her smartphone in hand so she could take a candid shot of a couple having a dance
Celebrity fans of the performance included Ellen DeGeneres who tweeted, '#SameLove was incredible. Love to @Macklemore, @RyanLewis, @MaryLambertSing @Madonna & @IAmQueenLatifah for a beautiful performance #GRAMMYs'
Neil Patrick Harris wrote, 'My face hurts from smiling. That was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to see. Much much love. Well done, Grammys'
The couples, gay, straight and interracial, were lined up in the venue, standing on platforms as they said their vows
On Twitter, users slammed the Grammys for taking such an overt stance on a political issue, claiming the show-stopper was both inappropriate for a music awards show and an attack on religious values.
Prior to the event, Billy Hallowell from The Blaze tweeted 'Why can't the event just be about the music? So tired of political and social messages being infused into everything.'
Conservative pundit Todd Starnes, who has appeared on Fox News, also tweeted 'The Grammys to make a mockery of marriage tonight.'
Others dubbed the mass wedding as 'anti-Christian' and leftist 'propaganda.'
'I don't care if they are gay or straight this is wrong. Quit shoving your leftist agenda down my throat. Enough is enough,' another tweet read.
An earlier report by the New York Times announced that more than three dozen gay, straight and interracial couples - including Lewis' sister and her boyfriend - would exchange vows.
For Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, whose 'Same Love' was up for song of the year, the event took on a personal note with the participation of Lewis's sister Laura, who married her boyfriend during the ceremony.
'A night that is already tremendous for me, for the music,' the Times quoted him as saying, 'but to have my sister get married and my family there watching it — that makes it a whole other level of amazing.'
Lewis also said that the weddings 'will be in our minds the ultimate statement of equality, that all the couples are entitled to the same exact thing.'
Couples were beaming during the televised mass wedding
The stage was made to resemble a chapel with beautiful stained glass windows
The performers were clearly moved by the significant moment
Even Ryan Lewis' sister Laura married her boyfriend, Alex, during the memorable performance
The wedding's rehearsal took place on Saturday, where the couples walked up and down aisles near the main GRAMMY stage. Show producer Ken Ehrlich stated that putting the soon-to-be-wed pairs onstage 'could be viewed as more exploitative.'
'It seemed like less of a "show" than if I put them onstage,' Ehrlich explained. 'I don't want them to feel as though they're on parade,' he told the New York Times.
The idea for the weddings originated last fall when Mr. Ehrlich sat down with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis over lunch to brainstorm ideas for a possible performance. Knowing that their concerts have occasionally featured onstage marriage proposals, Mr. Ehrlich suggested taking it a step further with a full wedding.
The band was into it, so a casting agency was hired to find the couples, who at first were told only that the ceremony would take place on live television. The couples each signed confidentiality agreements — promising not to tell even their families.
Defending the multi-marriage stunt from critics against the Grammy wedding ceremony, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnoy said, 'I expect that people with all kinds of opinions might voice them, and that's healthy, but we don't need to stoop to the level of trying to find gimmicks and sensationalistic approaches to what we do.'
In a charming twist, pop star Katy Perry caught a bouquet thrown into the crowd, and tweeted a picture of herself holding it with the comment, 'Congrats to all the #samelove couples tonight. You had me in tears of joy for y'all! Also... Look who caught the bouquet!!! #okuuuurrrr
Earlier in the evening, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, and Best Rap Song.