December 27, 2012

Portland's same-sex marriage plan includes crowd control

No one knows how many couples will show up, but officials will be able to handle as many as 100.

By Matt Byrne
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – They know neither who will come, nor how many.

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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 on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer

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Nonetheless, city officials are preparing for as many as 100 same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses – and possibly getting married – before dawn Saturday.

"We're prepared for pretty much any kind of crowd we could get," said Chris Farwell, a city event coordinator who is responsible for logistics on Saturday.

Portland is one of a handful of communities in Maine that plan special office hours Saturday, the first day that same-sex couples can be married under a new state law.

Falmouth will also open just after midnight, while communities including Augusta and Brunswick will open their offices at 9 a.m.

For groups and families who plan to be at Portland City Hall on Friday night and early Saturday morning, city officials are arranging varying levels of access.

Only couples, their immediate families and a limited number of guests will be allowed inside the building, and only the couples themselves will be allowed to wait in line for marriage certificates.

Families will be directed to adjacent lobbies and rooms, Farwell said.

Supporters and others will be kept outside in City Hall Plaza, which will be barricaded for safety reasons.

EqualityMaine, which backed this year's successful referendum campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, has a permit to dispense refreshments, but no vendors will be allowed to sell goods or services on the public property.

In Maine, judges, clergy members, lawyers and notaries may perform marriages.

At least three notaries will be at Portland City Hall to perform marriage ceremonies early Saturday.

The doors are expected to open at 10 p.m.

The clerk's office will begin serving people at 12:01 a.m., when couples will start the process by filling out marriage license forms, said Portland Vital Clerk Shelly Dalberto.

Officials have said that any couples who are inside City Hall before 3:01 a.m. will be able to get marriage licenses.

A separate queue will form for couples who have completed their license information and been married, so they can return their license documents to the city to formalize their unions, Dalberto said.

A marriage license, which costs $40, is valid for 90 days, for couples who may want to marry later.

A typical license takes the clerk about 25 minutes to process, she said.

At least 10 staffers in the clerk's office are expected to handle paperwork and perform the ceremonies, and Dalberto said she expects notaries unaffiliated with the city to turn out for the event.

The city ceremony, which costs $125, is rather quick, she said.

"It's a boom-boom, couple of lines ceremony," Dalberto said.

For couples who don't want a city-officiated wedding and forget to book a notary, at least one minister plans to offer his services in a special venue – his 32-foot-long recreational vehicle, which he plans to park nearby.

Ted Hunter of Brunswick said he has the city's approval to park near Congress and Exchange streets to offer weddings in the RV.

"If they want a ceremony, we can do one," Hunter said. "I don't know what's going to happen."


Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


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