November 10, 2012

For same-sex couples, marriage is vindication

They have always seen their committed relationships as legitimate -- now society has endorsed them as well.

By North Cairn
Staff Writer

Gay couples in Maine lead lives that, in many ways, are no different from those of heterosexual couples. They get up and go to work each day, drive children to school or guide them through college, take care of homes and cars, pay bills and taxes, stay healthy, keep in touch with friends and extended family.

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David Jacobs, left, and Paul Jacobs play with their dog Godiva in their home in South Portland on Friday. The couple of 22 years recently got engaged and plan to get married in July.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

For Denise LaFrance, left, and Sherry Dunkin, a legal marriage would represent another symbol of their lifelong commitment.

Family photo

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But after last Tuesday's vote legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine, something like the shift of continental plates has happened for many gay couples.

"I can't tell you how much I've cried in the last two days," said David Jacobs of South Portland, who has been with his partner, Paul Jacobs, for more than 20 years.

"I shouldn't need other people's validation," he said. But being acknowledged as equal in the right to marry healed something in him.

"I don't think you know what you're missing until you're told you can't have it."

With Tuesday's vote, Maine became the first state in the nation to approve gay marriage at the ballot box, by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin. In Maryland and Washington, residents also endorsed gay marriage by voting to uphold gay marriage laws enacted by their legislatures. And in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The Maine referendum was a milestone in a battle that has been fought for years. That battle included the Legislature's approval of gay marriage in 2008, which prompted a petition drive by opponents that led to a 2009 referendum overturning the law.

Following Tuesday's votes, there are now nine states where same-sex marriage is legal: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

David Jacobs, 48, a marketing and development consultant, and Paul Jacobs, 47, a software developer, had not "wed" in the way that many gay couples opted to before same-sex marriage became legal. They had no commitment ceremony or other ritual to substitute for a wedding.

After Sept. 11, 2001, however, David gave up his birth family's name and took Paul's. They had been touched by the fact that the relationship of a gay couple aboard one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center went unacknowledged in the aftermath -- as did their adoption of a son -- because they did not share the same surname.

But David and Paul did not otherwise publicly document their commitment to each other. "We are not married," David said. "We have been waiting until our own state said it was legal."

Now that Maine has approved it, David and Paul already have set a date: July 7, 2013, the 23rd anniversary of their first date. They plan to hold their wedding in the backyard of their South Portland home.


For Rodney Mondor and Ray Dumont of Portland, the change occurred as soon as the vote was announced. The couple -- both work as administrators in student services at the University of Southern Maine -- got engaged right at the victory celebration Tuesday at Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland, where supporters gathered to watch referendum returns.

As expected, it was Mondor, 45, who proposed.

"I insisted," said Dumont, 46. "I told him, 'I want you to ask me.' It's a little old-fashioned, I know. I am old-fashioned about it."

Mondor phoned ahead to his partner's mother in Lewiston and put the call on speaker phone. He asked her for permission to marry her son; she gave it. And there, with Dumont's mother listening, Mondor proposed.

"That moment was really special -- very exciting," Dumont said. "It was very romantic."

(Continued on page 2)

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Ray Dumont, left, partner Rodney Mondor, right, and their son, Ethan Mondor, pose for a family portrait at Lyric Theater in South Portland. The men got engaged at Tuesday’s Question 1 victory celebration.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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