December 11, 2012

Falmouth to offer midnight same-sex marriages

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH — A growing number of city and town offices in Maine plan to open on Dec. 29, a Saturday, to issue marriage licenses on the first day that same-sex marriage is legal in the state.

Today's poll: Midnight marriages

Should Portland and other cities open their clerks' offices at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 29 to offer marriage licenses for same-sex couples and others?

Yes

No

View Results

click image to enlarge

Alisson Poisson and Maggie Oechslie of South Portland hold a marriage certificate that Maggie's father made and presented to them in June 2011. Now that it's law, the couple looks forward to getting a legal certificate. Falmouth and Portland have said they will open at midnight Dec. 29 to accommodate requests from residents eager to get married at the earliest possible moment.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer

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The extended hours will come at a price, but the extra payroll costs are expected to be offset by increased revenue from the licenses.

On Monday, Falmouth became the latest community to announce special hours. The town, like the city of Portland, will open its office at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 29 to be among the first to issue licenses and host same-sex weddings.

"These people have been waiting so long to be able to do this," said Town Clerk Ellen Planer. "I'm honored to be able to offer it to them as soon as it's available."

Other towns and cities plan to open their offices at 9 a.m. or later on Dec. 29.

Augusta City Manager Bill Bridgeo said the city decided to open on Dec. 29 after several residents called his office last week to find out whether the city could accommodate couples who want to marry on that day.

Bridgeo said he and his staff talked briefly and decided they could open from 9 a.m. to noon.

City Clerk Barbara Wardwell, who offered to work, is salaried, so there will be no extra cost to the city. One other staff person plans to work, for three hours at overtime pay, Bridgeo said.

The relatively small extra cost of opening the office for three hours on Dec. 29 likely will be made up by the revenue from the $40 marriage licenses.

"Given the significance of this, a small amount of public money wasn't an issue of concern," he said.

More and more communities are announcing plans to hold Saturday hours on Dec. 29. Augusta was the first to announce, followed by Gardiner, Hallowell, Brunswick, Portland and Falmouth.

Town and city officials say the decision is being made to offer a public service, not for financial reasons.

Fran Smith, town clerk in Brunswick, said two staff people will work from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 29 to issue licenses.

"We are asking people to make appointments," she said. "At this point, we don't know what the demand will be, but we thought it was the right thing to do for residents."

Smith said the extra revenue generated on that day will likely cover the cost of opening the town office.

Bigger cities, including Portland, are likely to incur more cost by opening early, but they're also likely to be busier.

Portland announced last week that it will open its office from 12:01 a.m. to 3:01 a.m. Spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the city probably won't know exactly what the extra cost will be until after that day, but she estimated it at $600 for three hours.

It will take only a handful of weddings to cover that, with license fees of $40 and marriage ceremonies costing $125, she said.

Augusta manager Bridgeo said people may see Saturday hours as an anomaly, but he and his staff often work outside of normal business hours, depending on the circumstances.

On a Memorial Day several years ago, for instance, Bridgeo went to the office to fax a copy of a birth certificate to a resident who was stranded at the airport in Philadelphia and didn't have his passport for a flight to Belize.

(Continued on page 2)

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Today's poll: Midnight marriages

Should Portland and other cities open their clerks' offices at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 29 to offer marriage licenses for same-sex couples and others?

Yes

No

View Results