Two burly, middle-aged men walk out of Portland City Hall, heavy coats worn against the late December Maine winter night left open, revealing matching black T-shirts bearing a rainbow design that echoes the Christmas lights in the background. The cheers of a largely unseen crowd swell when they walk out and burst into a joyous, unified shout when the beaming men, Steven Bridges and Michael Snell, lean in for a kiss, the first same-sex couple married in the state of Maine.
Filmmaker, activist and blogger Alex Steed is glad he was there.
“I was really proud,” Steed says. “This was something I was able to take a breath and be floored that so many people saw something I was really proud of.”
Steed had initially planned just to live-blog the events of the wee hours of Dec. 28-29, when Portland Mayor Michael Brennan opened City Hall so gay Mainers could marry as soon as the state’s voter-approved law went into effect. But he quickly decided that wasn’t all he wanted to do to document the historic night.
“No one was going to be live covering the event, so I talked to the guys at Knack (Steed’s Portland-based creative content company) and said we should make a video.”
From the hour of footage that he and co-director/producer Kurt Graser took interviewing applicants, supporters, newlyweds, Brennan and others, Steed compiled the five-and-a-half minute mini-documentary, “Finally,” working overnight with a sense of urgency.
“The (TV) news stations showed up for 15 minutes, grabbed something and left,” Steed said. “We were there an hour before, went into the room for ceremonies, and a number of hours afterwards. We wanted to have it out as people were waking up.”
Reaction to “Finally” has been positive and widespread, with the video being re-posted by influential advice columnist Dan Savage, the organizations GLAAD, Change.org, Talking Points Memo and Maine’s own Entertainment Experiment, and, according to Steed, some 10 to 15 other gay rights sites around the country.
So is Steed satisfied with his film?
“I’m disappointed we only got the first wedding down and not the first lesbian wedding,” laments Steed. “But Steve and Michael got in touch since and are really happy about the video, and they say it made people they know cry.
“It’s important for them, and super important to us, that we did justice to this important event in the state, being on the forefront of a civil rights win. But if people went out of their way to say, ‘Oh we cried,’ then I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, we did it.’ “
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.