December 30, 2012

More than 40 gay couples licensed to wed in Maine

In communities all over the state, same-sex couples obtain licenses to stand for the first time before their friends and family and be able to say: 'We're married!'

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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The first to wed: Michael Snell, left, and Steven Bridges leave Portland City Hall early Saturday after becoming the first gay couple to be married in Maine. The mayor said theirs “may be the most covered marriage” in the state’s history.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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“The world's changing”: Donna Galluzzo, 49, left, and Lisa Gorney, 45, both of Portland, glance back toward friends after tossing a bouquet together shortly after being married early Saturday at Portland City Hall.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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"What it lacks in romance it makes up for in significance," said Katie Snell, 27, who traveled from Boston with her sister, Carolyn Snell, 25, to witness their father's important day.

Michael Snell, a massage therapist, and Bridges, a retail manager, had planned to get married this summer. Now, they plan to hold a reception this summer, possibly on a local beach, where they will renew their vows.

"This was going to be such a historic night, we decided, why not do it now?" Bridges said before the ceremony, for which the couple wore matching black T-shirts, bearing the words, "Love is Love," with faded blue jeans and black dress shoes.

Bridges and Snell weren't ready for all of the attention they received as the first gay Mainers to tie the knot. About 20 reporters and photographers crowded into the city clerk's office to witness their wedding, including some who work for national and international news agencies.

"It may be the most covered marriage in the history of the state," said Mayor Michael Brennan, who got emotional when he congratulated Bridges and Snell after the ceremony, telling them, "I'm very proud of you."

Bridges and Snell had been united in a commitment ceremony six years ago, so when a reporter asked them if they felt "more married" after the wedding, Snell responded, "No, it's just official."

They said being married validates their relationship and means that their commitment is equal to any other couple's in the eyes of the law.

The occasion attracted fewer than the 50 couples that City Clerk Katherine Jones anticipated. Two couples who wanted to get married were turned away because they had been married before and didn't have the necessary documentation to prove that they were now divorced.

"We thought that there were going to be a lot more people," Jones said. "But it was touching. (Gay) couples have waited a long, long time for this."

Once a license is issued, a couple has 90 days to get married.

On Nov. 6, Maine joined Maryland and Washington as the first states to approve same-sex marriage at the polls. Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C.

With 53 percent of voters approving, Mainers decided to allow same-sex couples to get marriage licenses.

In 2009, the Maine Legislature passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, but voters overturned it later that year in a people's veto referendum.

The two protesters outside Portland City Hall were the voice of the opposition, which they expressed by singing religious songs.

One identified himself only as a Portland resident and a street preacher.

He said, "This is wickedness. They are bringing judgment upon Maine and the nation."

The other man would not be interviewed.

The controversy and recent resolution to Maine's gay-marriage question is what brought Martin Gelin to Portland for opening day of same-sex weddings. Gelin is a freelance journalist who lives in New York City and writes for the Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) in Stockholm, Sweden, where same-sex unions have been recognized since the mid-1990s.

"In Sweden, which is socially liberal, most people think America is a socially conservative country because of the dominance of (far-right) Republicans in the media," Gelin said. "But the gay rights movement started in the U.S. There was a lot happening around this issue lately and it's interesting because it's all happening so fast."

The fact that gay marriage has been a contentious issue in Maine is one reason Rose Mahoney, a notary who lives in Portland, decided to offer her services free of charge to any couples who wanted to get married Saturday morning. The city charged $40 for a license, $125 for a marriage ceremony and $15 for a marriage certificate.

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Additional Photos

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The number of well-wishers outside Portland City Hall ballooned just before midnight and the countdown to 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when same-sex marriage became legal in Maine.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Jamous Lizotte, left, and Steven Jones display copies of their marriage license after they were wed Saturday in a ceremony at Portland City Hall.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Katherine Wilder, 39, left, and Margaret O’Connell, 44, leave Brunswick Town Hall after getting married. They brought their dog Blue along to the ceremony.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

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Cathy Meaney, 57, and Anne Merrifield, 73, take marriage vows at Brunswick Town Hall on Saturday. Town Councilor Dan Tucker officiated at the wedding. Their friend Elaine Mower of Brunswick was a witness.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

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Christine Horne, center, a vital records clerk at Portland City Hall, marries Jeff Burdick, left, and Josh Laton at City Hall on Saturday.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Together for 23 years, Laura Minervino, left, and Robin Elliott obtain their marriage license at South Portland City Hall on Saturday. They plan to wed next month.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Becky Roak, left, and Mary Parker get their marriage license Saturday at Brunswick Town Hall. They’re accompanied by their 22-month-old daughter, Grace.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

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With a new marriage license from South Portland City Hall, Heidi Caton, left, and Julie Nowell planned a wedding ceremony Saturday.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Seth Thayer, left, and Greg Tinder, together for nearly 14 years, were married Saturday morning in an outdoor ceremony in Northport, overlooking Penobscot Bay.

Photo courtesy of Seth Thayer

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Coming to Portland from Augusta to support same-sex couples, Matthew Martin, left, and Russell Vonaa embrace outside City Hall on Saturday.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

  


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