Maine greets gay marriage with midnight weddings

Robert Bukaty/Associated Press

Steven Bridges, left, and Michael Snell speak to reporters after making history as the first same-sex couple to be married in the state under Maine's new law on Saturday at City Hall in Portland.

PORTLAND — After waiting years and seeing marriage rights nearly awarded and then retracted, gay couples in Maine's largest city didn't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to wed, with licenses issued at the stroke of midnight as the law went into effect.

Among them were Steven Bridges and Michael Snell, who held a commitment ceremony six years ago but made marriage official under state law with a simple ceremony.

"It's historic. We've waited our entire lives for this," said Bridges, a retail manager, who's been in a relationship with the Snell, a massage therapist, for nine years. Bridges, 42, and Snell, 53, wore lavender and purple carnations on black T-shirts with the words "Love is love."

With Snell's two adult daughters looking on, they exchanged vows in the city clerk's office after getting the first marriage license issued to a same-sex couple in Portland.

Voters approved gay marriage in November, making Maine and two other states the first to do so by popular vote. The law is already in effect in Washington state; Maryland's takes effect on Tuesday, the first day of 2013.

Gay marriage was already legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, but those laws were either enacted by lawmakers or through court rulings.

The Maine Legislature had once approved same-sex marriage, but it was overturned by a statewide referendum three years ago, crushing couples who had already made wedding plans. Gay marriage supporters collected signatures to put it on the ballot again, and this time it was easily approved.

Gov. Paul LePage signed off on the certified election results on Nov. 29, so the new law was to go into effect 30 days from that date. In addition to gay marriage becoming legal, same-sex marriages in other states will now be recognized by the state of Maine.

Nobody knew exactly how many couples would be rushing to get their marriage licenses early Saturday. Falmouth joined Portland in opening at midnight. A handful of other communities including Bangor, Brunswick and Augusta planned to hold special Saturday hours.

In Portland, the mood was festive with the crowd cheering and horns sounding at midnight as Bridges and Snell began filling out paperwork in the clerk's office in Portland City Hall.

More than a dozen couples stood in line to wait their turn amid the festive atmosphere. There were free carnation boutonnieres and cupcakes, and a jazz trio played.

Outside City Hall, a couple hundred people cheered Snell and Bridges when they emerged newly married, breaking into an impromptu song, the Beatles' "All You Need is Love."

Donna Galluzzo and Lisa Gorney also planned a midnight wedding, and theirs had all the trappings. They dined Friday night with friends, and then took a limo to City Hall. They had their rings, flowers, wedding vows and a friend to perform the ceremony.

They ended up near the back of the line awaiting marriage licenses, but that didn't matter.

"We decided it's a historic day and we thought it would be awesome to be a small part of history, to say we got married on the first day it's legal," Galluzzo said.

Not everyone was getting married right away.

Suzanne Blackburn and Joanie Kunian, of Portland, were among those in line to get their license at midnight, but they didn't plan to wed immediately. One of their grandchildren wanted them to get married on Valentine's Day.

"I don't think that we dared to dream too big until we had the governor's signature," Blackburn said. "That's why it's so important, because it feels real."

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Comments

Jack Kaubris's picture

Love is Love

...and there will always be bigots among us.

RONALD RIML's picture

Gays have married in Maine

The earth still turns on it's axis....

Lovers spoon, and the whiners yet wail.

All is still well with the World.

Donald Irish's picture

gays marry in Me

It makes me so happy, I could just throw up.

David  Cote's picture

So.....

Does anyone ever recall a town office or city hall opening at midnight for a specific purpose such as granting marriage licenses? Would a heterosexual couple appearing in line have a marriage license granted to them? It makes no difference to me whether gays marry or not. However the impression I got from the gay community was they were only interested in being treated equal. Fair enough and I agree. But opening city hall for this sole purpose is preffered treatment and makes claims of only seeking equality seem hypocritical. You waited this long. It won't hurt to wait for the hall to open at normal business hours like the rest of us do.

Mark Elliott's picture

and more "special treatment"

and more "special treatment" to come.....

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

You mean like a special

You mean like a special parking section (close to the building) at the Walmart for married same sex couples? Hell, why not? They have them for everyone else except healthy unpregnant people.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Bingo!!! Spot on, David.

Bingo!!! Spot on, David.

Fred Stone's picture

News?

And you call this news worthy??????

Andrew Jones's picture

Hey, why not? The paper

Hey, why not? The paper frequently reports heterosexual weddings.

William Cordwell's picture

State OF MAINE

The State of Maine has definetley lost GODS favor. Watch and SEE what takes place in Maine now. Lepage is sure going to have his hands full.

Really?

When, and by whom, were you appointed to inform the State of Maine when it has "definetley" lost God's favor? I presume you have a direct line to God, and God informs you of these things? Is it a hotline, with a red phone, like in the Oval Office during the Cold War? Can you use it to predict the stock market too? If so, that's pretty cool.

But if you're wrong (and I'm pretty sure you are), here's what's going to take place in Maine: Same-sex couples who love each other will now be able to marry. They'll face the same challenges and opportunities that married heterosexual couples have long faced (well, that and the added challenge of anti-gay prejudice). And, as has often been noted, straight people will be affected, in that many of us will be invited to more weddings and will have to buy more presents. The exception, of course, will be heterosexual people who proclaim how evil they think that romantic love is when it's between two people of the same sex. I suppose that if you make an ass of yourself by saying such things over and over when the rest of us are just trying to celebrate our friends' marriages, you won't get invited to gay weddings. And that means you won't be affected at all.

Unless you somehow derive happiness from denying others their happiness. (As H. L. Mencken once said, puritanism is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.") If so, then I guess you now have reason to be totally bummed out.

Have a good night all.

Andrew Jones's picture

Ever heard of "love the

Ever heard of "love the sinner, hate the sin"?

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