PORTLAND, Maine — Same-sex couples in Maine began exchanging wedding vows shortly after midnight on Saturday as the state’s new marriage equality law took effect.
Maine becomes the eighth U.S. state to legalize marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, and the first to do so through a ballot initiative brought by petition, and enacted by a popular vote of its citizens.
Portland residents Michael Snell, 53, and Steven Bridges, 42, who said they had an informal marriage ceremony in Portland six years ago, were the first gay couple married under the new state law, and received cheers from more than 200 people waiting outside after they wed in the clerk’s office just after midnight.
A group of musicians led the crowd in a rendition of the Beatles’ song, “All You Need is Love.”
“It’s historic. We’ve waited our entire lives for this,” said Bridges, a retail manager, who’s been in a relationship with the Snell, a massage therapist, for nine years. Snell’s two adult daughters served as witnesses.
In Portland, the city clerk’s office opened from midnight to 3 a.m. to greet eager couples and being issuing marriage licenses — by 2 a.m., the office had issued 15 licenses, and seven of those couples had married. Maine does not have a mandatory waiting period, so ceremonies can take place as soon as the license is issued.
Several other Maine communities opened their town or city halls on Saturday morning to issue marriage licenses, including Bangor, Brunswick, Falmouth, South Portland, Freeport, Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell; most offices we planning to only be open until Noon today.
In addition to Maine, two other states that legalized same-sex marriage on Nov. 6 — Washington state and Maryland — were brought about by petition drives in an effort to reject marriage equality laws enacted by their state legislatures.