December 4, 2012

Maine gay-marriage law effective Dec. 29

By Scott Dolan
Staff Writer

Gay couples will be able to get married in Maine as soon as Dec. 29, now that the governor has certified the results of the referendum Nov. 6 that made it legal.

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Sarah Dowling, left, and Linda Wolfe of Freeport would like to wed soon.

2012 Staff File Photo/John Ewing

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People celebrate after learning same sex marriage had passed at the Mainers United for Marriage party at the Holiday Inn by the Bay Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Maine could be issued beginning Dec. 29.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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But it remained uncertain Monday who will be the first Maine same-sex couple to wed, and when and where they will tie the knot.

Maine's law allowing gay couples to get marriage licenses will take effect on a Saturday, when city and town offices are normally closed. Couples may have to wait until the following Monday, which is New Year's Eve.

The law takes effect 30 days after Gov. Paul LePage's certification of the voting results, which came on Thursday, said Megan Sanborn, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office.

Sanborn said her office doesn't decide whether city or town offices open on Saturday. "That will depend on the municipalities."

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said he will look into the possibility of opening City Hall on that Saturday, possibly at 12:01 a.m., for the city's -- and possibly the state's -- first same-sex marriage ceremony.

"We just found out about this today, and we'll look into all the details and make a determination from there," Brennan said Monday afternoon. "We can't say for sure we'll be open on Dec. 29 or rule that out as a possibility."

But whether it's Dec. 29 or Dec. 31, Brennan said he's certain of one thing: He wants to be there.

"I'm going to be very pleased and happy when the first (same-sex couple) in the city of Portland gets to be married in a ceremony of their choosing," Brennan said. "Certainly this is a historic event. I think if Portland could be part of this historic event, we'd want to be."

Maine residents voted 53 percent to 47 percent on Nov. 6 to approve gay marriage, making Maine the ninth state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Betsy Smith, executive director of the pro-gay-marriage group EqualityMaine, said her group will not lobby cities or towns to change their office hours.

"We're first going to find out whether city halls and town halls have hours on Saturday. If there are some with Saturday hours, then theirs will be the first" ceremonies, Smith said.

Even Smith was caught off guard by the timing of the law's effective date. She expected that the governor would wait until his deadline, rather than sign the voting results early, and that the law would take effect Jan. 5, 6 or 7.

After Election Day, the secretary of state had 20 days to certify the voting results, then the governor had 10 days to sign off on them.

"The question is, are people going to line up for marriage licenses for Saturday on Dec. 29 or Monday on Dec. 31? I don't know," Smith said.

Sarah Dowling and Linda Wolfe of Freeport have been together for 18 years and were at the forefront of the fight to legalize gay marriage in Maine for many of those years.

They had what Dowling called a "non-legal wedding" 16 years ago, followed by a civil union in Vermont on their fifth anniversary. They have talked about getting legally married either at Freeport Town Hall or at their church on July 27, the earliest date they could schedule a wedding there.

"I don't know that I want to wait one second," Dowling said Monday.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Ellie MacCallum, left, of Windham, receives a kiss from her partner, Judy Eycleshymer, right, after they learned same sex marriage had passed while at the Mainers United for Marriage party at the Holiday Inn by the Bay Tuesday, November 6, 2012. Marriage licenses for same-sex couples in Maine could be issued beginning Dec. 29.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer


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