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Maine

More than 1500 gay couples wed in Maine’s first year of marriage equality

Sunday, December 29, 2013
Robert F. Bukaty, APIn this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, file photo, Steven Bridges, left, receives a wedding ring from Michael Snell at City Hall in Portland, Maine. The couple made history as the first same-sex couple to be married in the state under Maine's new law.

Robert F. Bukaty, AP
In this Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, file photo, Steven Bridges, left, receives a wedding ring from Michael Snell at City Hall in Portland, Maine. The couple made history as the first same-sex couple to be married in the state under Maine’s new law.

PORTLAND, Maine — Steven Bridges and Michael Snell thought they knew what they were getting into a year ago when they went to City Hall to get married. But they didn’t realize that they were about to become instant celebrities.

Joining Snell’s daughters as witnesses were several dozen news reporters and photographers as they became the first same-sex couple to get married shortly after midnight on Dec. 29 at Portland City Hall. Photos of their wedding in the clerk’s office made their way from Maine to California.

“We thought it was truly going to be a low-key night with Michael’s daughters,” Bridges said. “It didn’t turn out that way.”

More than 1,500 same-sex couples followed them in the year since it became legal for gay couples to wed in Maine, which along with Maryland and Washington states became the first to approve gay marriage by popular vote on Nov. 6, 2012.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 18 states through legislative action, court rulings and popular votes.

Ian Grady, of EqualityMaine, which led the referendum drive in Maine, said the process of recognizing same-sex marriages is speeding up nationwide. None of potential problems cited by gay marriage opponents – teaching same-sex marriage in schools, churches being forced to perform ceremonies – have come to bear, Grady said.

Meanwhile, it’s been fun to see a variety of couples wed over the past year, he said. There have been large weddings with hundreds of guests, while other couples have opted for low-key events. Some couples had to wait decades for the right to get married, while other younger couples didn’t have to wait long at all.

“What they all had in common was that they were incredibly joyful occasions,” Grady said.

The Christian Civic League of Maine, which fought the referendum, remains concerned that same-sex marriages will be taught in schools, infringe upon religious liberties and cause wedding cake makers, photographers and others who decline to work with gay couples to get into hot water. That’s already happened in other states, said Carroll Conley, the group’s executive director.

“When we look across the country, this is definitely not a live-and-let-live proposition. The whole argument was about equality and we said during our campaign that we thought there would be people who’d find themselves in the crosshairs of the redefinition of marriage,” Conley said.

All told, 9,524 couples have been married in the year since same-sex marriage was legalized in Maine. Same-sex couples comprised about 16 percent – 1,530 – of the total, according to the office of data, research and vital statistics, part of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in Augusta.

A year ago, the mood was festive with cheering throngs of people and horns sounding as Bridges and Snell began filling out paperwork at midnight Portland City Hall. Afterward, an energetic crowd outside the building cheered Bridges and Snell and broke into the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”

“We weren’t looking anything special. We were just looking for the same thing that was afforded to everyone else through marriage,” Snell said.

The following morning, the couple went to work as usual.

But Bridges, 43, a retail manager, and Snell, 54, a massage therapist, soon realized that photos of the simple ceremony in which they exchanged vows swept beyond Maine. They received letters of congratulations from complete strangers from around the world, they said.

A year later, the couple remains happy. They’ve been together for 10 years, and they’d already had a commitment ceremony long before it became legal for them to get hitched.

One of these days, what the couple did won’t be unusual, Bridges said.

“With so many other states passing same-sex marriage laws, it’s going to be normal. That’s what we always wanted. We didn’t want a gay weddi ng. We just wanted a wedding,” he said.

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44 more reader comments:

  1. We married in Maine. A wonderful experience.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:26pm
  2. We are one of the 1500 couples…never been happier! :)

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:27pm
  3. <3 Best of luck and big congrats to you both :)

    Replied on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:37pm
  4. Congrats!

    Replied on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:41pm
  5. Congratulations!

    Replied on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:54pm
  6. Congratulations, best wishes <3

    Replied on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 2:07am
  7. congrats!

    Replied on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 5:47am
  8. wishing you all the happiness XXXX :)

    Replied on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:02pm
  9. Hurray and congratulations!!!

    Replied on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 4:21pm
  10. Bob your comments aren’t wanted, appreciated, or valid in any way.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:28pm
  11. And why is Bob on this site if he feels this way? Lol

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:31pm
  12. Congratulations to all the newlyweds. So, one year later, why hasn’t Maine fallen into the Atlantic Ocean? Or the locusts descended? Or all these other calamities predicted by the right wing? Because guess what – THEY ARE NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! When you have marriage equality, LGBT people get married – that’s wonderful – and that’s all that happens.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:32pm
  13. Love their tshirts…does anyone know where they can be purchased?

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:37pm
  14. How about it Ohio?

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 9:41pm
  15. Bob Bob Kiwome I’m pretty sure you watch lesbian porn. Shut up.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:06pm
  16. congrats to you all!

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:11pm
  17. This makes me soo happy ^-^ love is love, no matter the gender

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:19pm
  18. We are happily married in Maine…

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:31pm
  19. Awesome! And it is also awesome that Utah is over halfway to that number in just a week!

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:45pm
  20. Remember when (I think it was) Maryland had to tell folks to stop coming there to get married for fear of clogging up the system? They said they’d recognize out-of-state marriages for couples that moved there…

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:50pm
  21. Yay!!! I love this, it really gives me that much more hope for my daughter, one day she’ll find that special woman& will be able to marry her, just as her father did.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:54pm
  22. And the world keeps on spinning. Right on!

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 10:54pm
  23. Congratulations all of you beautiful couples! Good job Maine.

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 11:09pm
  24. “the way life should be”

    Posted on Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 11:11pm
  25. Congrats everyone!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:38am
  26. Good best of luck

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:51am
  27. Congrats. I am so happy that Maine legalized gay marriage.

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:58am
  28. So … how many “traditional, hetero marriages” imploded as a result of these “gay marriages?” Just curious.

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 1:14am
  29. Steven. It is Brandy from Dallas. Congratulations. I am so happy for you guys. I miss y’all. PB and Maine. It’s is good to see you !!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 2:00am
  30. Congrats to all the newlyweds!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 2:16am
  31. Congrats and Mazel Tov Maine……save some Lobsters for me!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 3:00am
  32. So looking a financial gain for the state of Maine, does anyone know the cost of a marriage license in the state of Maine? This is fantastic news.

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 3:03am
  33. AND THE WORLD DIDN’T EXPLODE!!!! <333 WOOT WOOT! <3

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 3:50am
  34. I love it! I think it’s beautiful… And before any Bible thumpers tell me to read my Bible, I’m Christian…One that does what the Bible says. I tend to my own business, and love my neighbors. Then, I one up that…I research the Bible! Scholars say that homosexuality in Biblical times meant something entirely different than it is used as now as did abomination. Please, all doubters feel free to look into it.

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 6:09am
  35. Love makes me happy. :-)

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 6:31am
  36. I want to propose and get married but I need help! http://www.gofundme.com/5yldh4

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 7:01am
  37. Will it ever be allowed in Tn

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 7:29am
  38. And Utah did half that in 2 1/2 days!!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 7:32am
  39. Congratulations to you all!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 8:50am
  40. Congrats to all :)

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 9:06am
  41. Good for them!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 10:18am
  42. wonderful to see couples together and happy

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:02pm
  43. Congrats Guys,all the best to you

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:33pm
  44. And no one’s ‘traditional marriage’ was destroyed….GO FIGURE!!!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 at 4:46pm