December 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Maine’s same-sex marriage law takes effect

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage, Maine

Steven Bridges and Michael Snell exchanged vows inside Portland City Hall shortly after midnight on Dec. 29. (Photo by Kurt Graser/Knack Factory)

Two men from Portland on Saturday became the first gay couple to legally marry in Maine once the state’s same-sex marriage law took effect.

Michael Snell, 53, and Steven Bridges, 42, exchanged vows inside Portland City Hall shortly after midnight as Snell’s two daughters, Mayor Michael Brennan and several reporters watched. Hundreds of people who had gathered outside in sub-freezing temperatures cheered the men as they left the building — they even sang the Beetles song “All You Need Is Love” as Snell and Bridges and the more than dozen other same-sex couples who either exchanged vows or obtained marriage licenses walked down the stairs.

“It means equality,” Snell told documentarians with the Knack Factory moments after he and Bridges exchanged vows. “It means that our relationship, our marriage is equal to everybody else’s.”

The Portland City Clerk’s office remained open to any same-sex couple who wanted to apply for a marriage license or tie the knot until 3 a.m. The town clerk’s office in nearby Falmouth also opened at midnight for gays and lesbians who had already made appointments to get married.

The Portland-Press Herald reported South Portland City Clerk Susan Mooney issued marriage licenses to eight same-sex couples once her office — three of them tied the knot there — opened at 8 a.m. The Brunswick Town Clerk’s office also issued marriage licenses to gays and lesbians this morning.

Chris Kast and Byron Bartlett were among the same-sex couples who married at Portland City Hall after the law took effect.

They had a commitment ceremony two and a half years ago, but Kast told the Washington Blade earlier today their choice to get married after midnight was “a matter of fact decision on our part” to “go do it and be part of what was an amazing evening.”

“It felt incredible,” he said. “The energy was just all positive and joyful. It was amazing.”

Maine’s same-sex marriage law took effect after voters on Election Day approved it by a 52-48 percent margin. They repealed an identical statute in 2009 that then-Gov. John Baldacci signed earlier that year.

Same-sex marriage referenda in Maryland and Washington also passed on Nov. 6. Minnesotans on Election Day struck down a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“All the politics is done; now it’s just about actual couples and the people who have been together wanting to make it official,” Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, the group that supported the same-sex marriage referendum, told the Blade. He was among those who gathered outside Portland City Hall to celebrate the state’s first legal gay nuptials. “The energy was amazing. It was just nothing but happiness — take the best parts of every wedding you’ve ever been too and multiply it by a hundred and that’s what it was like for these people.”

Sue Estler and Paula Johnson, who have been together for 24 years, married in their Orono home on Saturday. The couple plans to have a larger celebration next summer, but Estler told the Blade just before she and Johnson exchanged vows they decided to marry on the first day same-sex couples in Maine can legally do so because “we’ve waited so long.”

“It’s historic in Maine,” she said. “We’ve had so many ups and downs and so forth. Our commitment has been long-term, and this formalizes it.”

Donna Galluzzo, who married her partner of three years, Lisa Gorney, at Portland City Hall earlier on Saturday, echoed Estler.

“We had a feeling the vote was going to pass this year,” Galluzzo told the Blade. “After the vote happened and once it was all signed into law and knew what day City Hall was going to open, we looked at each other and said ‘let’s do it.’ It was a historic day and was important for us to be a part of history.”

Kast agreed, describing the scene outside Portland City Hall after he and Bartlett exchanged vows as “surreal.”

“It has taken us so long to get here, to get to a place where everybody’s the same,” Kast said. “It was such a struggle and how no one should have to do that, no one should have to fight, no one should have to give money or knock on doors just to have the legal right to marry the person with whom they choose to spend the rest of their life with. But that aside, it was flippin’ amazing. It really was.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Marriage, Maine

Donna Galluzzo and Lisa Gorney marry outside Portland City Hall on Dec. 29. (Photo by Chloe Crettien)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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