SOPHIE, LEFT, AND ARI GABRION at their formal wedding ceremony in September at Maple Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast in Hallowell.

SOPHIE, LEFT, AND ARI GABRION at their formal wedding ceremony in September at Maple Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast in Hallowell.

This past Sunday marked one year since it became legal for same-sex couples to marry in Maine.

While much has been said — before and even since that historic day — about the morality of allowing these unions to take place, I, for one, cheerfully say congratulations to any gay and lesbian couple who might have tied the knot in the last 12 months.

But I must admit I’m a little bias about this long overdue right. For I had the pleasure of being a proud father walking his daughter down the aisle on her special day, and thus affording me and my wife the joy of welcoming Ari, our daughter-in-law, into the family.

On reflection, Sophie and Ari’s wedding just seemed like part of a natural course of events, filled with plenty of happiness and support. But it was different — and special — for dozens of reasons. And so I asked the two of them to look back on their ceremony, and also the reality of their lives together and what they hope the future holds for this loving couple. Q. You had a formal wedding ceremony this past September. Why was it important for you to get married on the first day (Dec. 29, 2012) it became legal to do so?

ARI: It was important for us to get married last December because for us, being a part of such an important date in history was an amazing way to show our love and commitment to one another. We have both long been involved in social justice movements surrounding equal rights for all and to be a part of the first day in Maine history to allow for those rights to be shared with all couples meant so much to us, both as individuals and as a couple.

SOPHIE: In my mind, it was a way of saying thank you. Several communities throughout the state decided to open especially for that purpose on a chilly Saturday morning just to make sure that any couples who wanted to had the ability to utilize their new rights and our little city of Hallowell was one of them. Us being present and taking advantage of that kindness was in part our way of saying thank you to our city for being there for us and recognizing how important that day was.

Q. Describe what the past 12 months have been like for the two of you. Do you ever wake up thinking,Wow, we are so lucky to be living in a state that allows us to be ourselves?”

ARI: The past 12 months seem to have passed with just the blink of an eye! We spent the better part of the year planning our wedding for September, and enjoying the feeling of knowing that we are lucky enough to share things that others in states that haven’t passed a samesex marriage act aren’t: health care, better insurance rates, comfort in knowing that if there were an emergency, we wouldn’t run into trouble with hospital visitations.

While these things may seem so benign, they can really impact a couple when they aren’t offered the same rights and protections as others who are legally married. We feel so fortunate to call Maine home and to belong to a community that fought so diligently for equal rights for all Mainers.

SOPHIE: I wake up every day feeling lucky — for my beautiful wife, my career, my family and friends. I never wake up and think that I am lucky to live in Maine because they let me be gay and be equal, and I think that is the point. I should not have to hope to be equal, and the people of our state agreed with that by popular vote. I live in a state where I am finally allowed to be part of the majority without any special caveats to my rights.

Q. What is your response to people who still believe it’s morally wrong for same-sex partners to be married?

ARI: My response is and will most likely continue to be this: I’m just like you, trying to live my life with my loving family and friends. I respect your right to live as you chose and can only ask that you respect my right to do the same. That being said, I will continue to advocate for same-sex rights in other states where friends and family haven’t been so lucky yet.

SOPHIE: Tell them to not marry their same-sex partner then!

Q. Have you ever been hassled or ridiculed as a gay couple?

ARI: Let me again say, that we are so fortunate to live in Maine. We have not experienced harassment from anyone really, and it seems that wherever we go, be it to Bath to see the giant ships, Portland to see a concert, or to Hallowell, our hometown for a cup of tea, most everyone greets us with warm smiles.

SOPHIE: That depends on your definition of “hassled.” Have I ever had anyone punch me in the face for holding my wife’s hand? No. However, on a regular basis I get the raised eyebrows when I say “wife” instead of “husband” and I get the dreaded echo from people in conversation: “So when my wife and I …” “Your wife?”

These reactions can be tiresome but it is less because we are gay and more because we are a still a minority in most populations. There is no rushing what is viewed as normal. That just takes time.

Q. If Maine hadn’t recognized the right for same-sex people to wed, what would that have meant to your relationship?

ARI: This is certainly a scary thing to think about as we approach our one-year anniversary, and the first anniversary of same-sex marriage being legal in Maine.

If this measure had not passed, we would probably be doing what we had been doing all along, advocating and hitting the streets to talk with people about why equal rights for all Mainers is important.

Our relationship has survived so much already, dating back to our high school days when we were too young to really understand how important equal rights for all are. We are a strong couple and will remain committed to our family and the belief that all people should have equal access to marriage and the benefits that accompany it.

SOPHIE: It is less our relationship and more our bank account that would have been affected — everything from insurance to benefits to repayment of student loans. Quite apart from the fiscal drain, there are the legal ramifications to consider, which can be detrimental in matters of family planning and retirement.

Q. What do you hope the future holds for the two of you?

ARI: I can honestly say that our future is bright. We have already felt firsthand the effects of the law passing in Maine. We continue to count our blessings and we never let ourselves become so busy that we forget that chilly day, Dec. 29, 2012, when we walked hand in hand to City Hall in Hallowell, stood before the clerk and signed our names on a piece of paper that would forever change our lives.

SOPHIE: Like many newlyweds, we are steadily navigating the journey of starting a family, which is a difficult and exciting road to travel. We talk often about what kind of a world we would like to see our child raised in and it is in those moments that I am grateful to be living in Maine, where so many things really are “the way life should be.”

THANK YOU TO SOPHIE AND ARI. I would welcome hearing from other samesex couples in Maine. My email address is [email protected]


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