Local town clerks won't hold special hours for first day of same-sex marriage

In Lewiston-Auburn, the wedding bells will wait.

Although Portland, Augusta, Brunswick and a number of other Maine town halls will open Saturday, Dec. 29, to offer marriage licenses on the first day same-sex marriage is legal in Maine, the Twin Cities and many of the biggest towns in the tri-county area will not.

Clerks' offices in Auburn, Bethel, Dixfield, Farmington, Jay, Lewiston, Mexico, Oxford, Paris, Rangeley and Rumford will be closed for business as usual that Saturday. Some clerks said they've received no requests for marriage licenses that day and didn't see a need to open.

"We have not received one phone call or inquiry from a member of the public or a Lewiston resident asking if we're going to be open, or even asking about the process of obtaining a same-sex marriage license," Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo said. "At this point, we just haven't seen a demand for it or a call for it in Lewiston, so we're not planning to be open that Saturday."

Other clerks said they couldn't afford to pay staff for an extra day. A couple said they didn't feel right holding special office hours just because same-sex marriage will become legal that day. 

"My feeling, and I spoke to the manager about that, was the purpose of that new law was to have equal rights, not special rights," Farmington Town Clerk Leanne Pinkham said. "We're not normally open on Saturday, so I don't feel that's a necessary thing to do at this time.

The office will be open Monday, Dec. 31, she said, and same-sex marriage certificates will be available that day.

Some smaller town offices, including those in Vienna, Stoneham and Lovell, are normally open Saturdays and will be open on the 29th. 

Kim McLaughlin, president of the Maine Town & City Clerks' Association and town clerk in Old Orchard Beach, said opening — or not — has been a topic of discussion among her association members. Decisions, she said, have run the gamut, with some clerks planning to open town hall at midnight, some planning to open for a few hours during the day, and some opting to stay closed.

She said clerks hadn't voiced personal opinions about the law, either for or against.

"We've had town clerks just asking how other people are handling the situation," she said. "Everybody is professional, obviously, and everybody is going to deal with this new law just like they deal with every new law that's passed . . . with the utmost respect."

Old Orchard Beach's town hall will not open that Saturday.

Maine law requires that a couple, gay or straight, gets a marriage license in the town or city where one of them lives. An out-of-state couple can get a license from any town or city. There is no waiting period in Maine, so couples who get licenses can marry right away. 

One town hall that will be open that Saturday is Brunswick. The office will be staffed from 9 a.m. to noon, by appointment only.

"I don't think there was a big, profound discussion about it," Town Clerk Fran Smith said. "A couple of councilors asked and I asked my staff. I had a couple (of staff members) who were willing to come in."

So far, three couples have booked appointments. 

EqualityMaine, a gay rights advocacy group in Portland, is compiling a list of towns and cities that will be open that Saturday. Among the towns it so far includes: Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, Brunswick, Falmouth, Gardiner, Hallowell, Portland and South Portland.

EqualityMaine is advising couples to call their town halls before going to get licenses to find out whether clerks' offices will be open, what hours they will be open, whether appointments are necessary and which documents couples must show to get licenses.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Catherine Pressey's picture

Necessary:

Well at least Equality Maine is not complaining that they are not getting treated fairly, and so I am surprised about that. And I agree that they should not get special consideration, equal is what they wanted and equal is all they need. And until the Federal Gov. recognizes these couples. There is no advantage to making that special day before the year end. They have waited this long a few more days should not matter. But we will see what response I get for this comment.

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