Politics

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

PORTLAND - Michael Snell and Steven Bridges emerged from City Hall early Saturday and stepped into history, as the first of at least a dozen gay couples across Maine who exchanged wedding vows on the first day for same-sex partners to marry.

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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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More than 40 couples obtained marriage licenses in the 10 or so communities from Portland to Bangor that opened their clerk's offices as early as midnight for the special occasion. Twelve were married almost immediately in city or town halls, while a few others were planning private ceremonies Saturday.

While the total number of licenses and marriages may have been small, the meaning was huge for the couples and those who gathered to witness the ceremonies.

"I'm overwhelmed," said Mary Donaldson, 63, of Portland, after she and Roberta Batt, 71, partners for 30 years, were married in the City Council chamber.

"I'm really a private person, so all of this is really too much," Donaldson said, still shaken by the ceremony. "But I'm grateful to the people of Maine for making it happen."

In South Portland, City Clerk Susan Mooney lined up wedding cakes for the three couples who came into her office to be married starting at 8 a.m. Saturday. Mooney issued eight marriage licenses, including one that went to Heidi Caton and Julie Nowell.

The two were tying the knot before a group of family members at Bug Light Park on Saturday afternoon, followed by dinner at the Corner Room in Portland.

The couple, who had a big unofficial wedding last June, said they want to make their marriage legal.

"We are dotting our i's and crossing our t's," said Nowell, who intends to take Caton's last name.

The doors of Town Hall opened for marriage licenses at 9 a.m. in Brunswick, where the couples getting married included Mary Parker and Becky Roak. They brought with them their 22-month-old daughter, Grace, the birth child of Roak.

Parker said it was important to get married because it gives legal protection to Grace in the event of their deaths as well as assuring her own legal status as a mother of Grace.

"Being a parent is a beautiful thing and I am just really happy to have this opportunity. Grace is the best thing that has ever happened to me," Parker said.

Other towns that issued marriage licenses or hosted ceremonies Saturday morning included Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, Falmouth, Freeport, Gardiner and Hallowell.

In Portland, couples began arriving at City Hall around 9:30 p.m. and lined up to enter at 10 p.m. A band played musical standards in the foyer and well-wishers supplied flowers and cupcakes. Two protesters were soon outnumbered by the crowd of supporters that gathered on the plaza in front of City Hall.

As the activities began, City Hall repeatedly erupted with cheers.

Family members, friends and others woo-hooed each time a gay couple emerged from the city clerk's office, clutching one of the 15 marriage licenses that were issued there.

Bystanders cheered again for each of the six couples who got married at City Hall between midnight and 2 a.m. Three weddings were officiated by city clerks; three were officiated by notaries.

And a crowd of nearly 300 well-wishers greeted couples with shouts of congratulations and strains of "All You Need Is Love" as they departed City Hall arm in arm.

For most of the couples who got married, the vows weren't fancy, the surroundings weren't ideal and the process of applying for a license took longer than the ceremony itself.

The clerks asked each couple if they would take their significant other as a "lawfully wedded spouse" and at the end pronounced them "married."

But the simplicity didn't faze the couples or their guests, including Katie Snell, whose father, Michael Snell, 53, and his partner of nine years, Steven Bridges, 42, were the first gay couple to be married in Maine, shortly after midnight.

(Continued on page 2)

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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

20121229_SameSex
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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

20121229_SameSex
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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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