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Topped with two bridal figurines, a wedding cake featured prominently in yesterday's Freedom to Marry Day celebration.

Held for four hours in Houston Hall, the event -- put on by Allies and sponsored by the Social Planning and Events Committee -- offered free cake, a forum to discuss marriage rights and the opportunity to sign petitions advocating gay marriage rights.

"Everyone seems really supportive -- it has been great," Nursing freshman Dan La Bellarte said, adding that over 130 petitions were signed within the first hour of the event -- more than the total number collected last year.

Ultimately, over 200 students signed petitions yesterday. Allies members intend to send these petitions to the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based advocacy group.

Event organizers were pleased with the celebration's success.

"It's been amazingly good," College senior Katie Gerfen said, noting that this was the fourth time Freedom to Marry Day has been celebrated at Penn. "This was the best turnout we've had for this event."

"We always try to make today a huge event," Gerfen added, noting that last year, alumnus Kirk Marcolina -- the producer of Bravo's Gay Weddings -- spoke on campus to promote the day.

Allies members also noted that Freedom to Marry Day fell at an important time this year because of the recent legal controversy that arose in Massachusetts over gay marriage rights.

"This year, it's really well placed," Nursing freshman Susan Paul said, attributing the increased turnout to growing campus awareness of the issue.

The lack of negative reactions to t he wedding decorations and cake display also pleased organizers.

"We're really surprised by how well it's going this year -- a lot of people have come up to thank us," Engineering senior Beau Roberts said.

"Allies has really grown in the past year," Roberts added, noting that the group has expanded since its inception five years ago from having a dozen members to currently having a listserv of around 300.

With growing support from both inside and outside the group, Allies members are optimistic about the future of marriage rights.

"I think people are really ready for it," Paul said, noting that people seemed to be more open to considering the idea of gay marriage. "They're finally like, 'Oh, duh, why not?'"

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