Maryland couples await 2013 as marriage equality law takes effect at 12:01 a.m.

Staff Reports

Same-sex couples in Maryland are eagerly awaiting the New Year, as at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the state’s new marriage equality law takes effect.

Many courthouses are expected to be open Jan. 1 — normally a holiday — for couples who want to marry on the first day possible.

In Baltimore, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will open City Hall at 12:30 a.m., to accommodate seven same-sex couples who will be getting married.

Among them will be Jim Scales, 68, and William Tasker, 60, who have been together 35 years.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Scales, who made a Christmas present of his marriage license to Tasker. Couples in Maryland have been able to obtain their marriage licenses since Dec. 6, with the provision that couples could not actually become legally married until the law takes effect Jan. 1.

The measure equality law, which contains exemptions for religious organizations that choose not to marry same-sex couples, passed the House of Delegates in last February in a close vote.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who promised in his 2010 re-election campaign to work toward enacting marriage equality while in office, made good on his promise and signed the bill in March.

Opponents then gathered enough signatures to put the bill to a statewide vote, which passed on Nov. 6 with 52 percent in favor. Voters in Maine and Washington state also approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box in November. The Maine law took effect on Dec. 29, and the Washington state law took effect on Dec. 6.

In total, nine states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage. The other states are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

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