As soon as marriage licenses become available to same-sex couples, Maggie Oechslie and Alissa Poisson of South Portland plan to be first in line.

The couple, who are expecting their first child in May, say they already have had a public commitment ceremony in front of friends and family to celebrate their love.

Now, they want the official, legal piece of paper that gives them all the rights and responsibilities of heterosexual couples.

On Tuesday, Maine voters approved a citizens initiative to allow gay marriage, 53 percent to 47 percent. The new law will likely take effect in early January, after a 20-day period for the secretary of state to certify the voting results, a 10-day period for the governor to sign off on them, and a 30-day waiting period.

For Oechslie and Poisson, and hundreds of other gays and lesbians in Maine, there are considerations beyond love in getting married.

Oechslie is concerned that if they are not married when the baby is born, she will have no legal tie to the child. Married couples are instantly recognized as parents.

There are tax and inheritance implications as well, although same-sex couples must be aware that while Maine will recognize their marriages, the federal government will not, said Bruce Bell, who manages a legal information line for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston.

The group has set up a legal hotline for same-sex couples in Maine who are thinking of getting married, and it will soon produce a pamphlet with advice about Maine’s law.

State law contains hundreds of references to marriage, spouses, husbands and wives in varying contexts. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has outlined 10 categories of legal protections for married couples.

Among them are the ability to transfer real property to each other without paying real estate transfer tax, and a provision saying spouses cannot be forced to share private marital communications in lawsuits

The new law will recognize same-sex unions performed in states that legalized gay marriage before Maine did. So any Maine couples who have gone to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut or Iowa to get married will have those marriages recognized in Maine, Bell said.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has other tips for getting hitched:

• To get a license, a couple must go to the clerk’s office in the city or town where either one lives.

• Once a license is issued, a couple has 90 days to get married.

• A marriage can be performed by a justice of the peace, a judge, a notary public, an attorney or an ordained clergy member.

• The ceremony must be witnessed by at least two people other than the officiant, and signed by the couple, the officiant and witnesses.

• The officiant must return the marriage certificate to the town clerk within seven days of the ceremony.

Oechslie, 28, who is general manager of Maine Running Co., and Poisson, 33, a Portland police officer, already have a beautiful framed certificate from their commitment ceremony last year at Clay Hill Farm in Cape Neddick. Soon, they will have the real thing.

“That was the one thing both of our families were really sad about,” Oechslie said. “For us, it really is just that piece of paper.”

Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com