In just hours, the city clerk’s office in Portland, Maine, will begin issuing the state’s first marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as Maine becomes the first state to legalize marriage equality by a popular vote of its citizens.
And elsewhere, at one minute after midnight, many town offices and city halls across the state — generally closed on Saturdays — will make a one-time exception to also begin issuing marriage licenses, and since there is no waiting period in Maine, couples around the state are gearing up for overnight wedding ceremonies.
In 2009, Maine’s legislature passed a marriage equality law to give same-sex couples the right to marry, but in a state-wide ballot referendum that echoed California’s Proposition 8, nearly 53 percent of Maine citizens voted against same-sex marriage, reversing the legislative decision before the law took effect.
But three years later, and public opinion evolving nationally, marriage equality advocates collected signatures to put it on the ballot again, and this time it was easily approved.
And tonight, at midnight on Dec. 29, Maine becomes the eighth U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first to do so through a ballot initiative brought by petition.
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. In Washington state, the same-sex marriage law took effect Dec. 6, and the Maryland law takes effect Jan. 1.