January 1, 2013 at 12:01 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Md. same-sex marriage law takes effect
Tracy Staples, Bob Zuber, Black Walnut Point Inn, Maryland, gay marriage, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

Tracy Staples and Bob Zuber, co-owners of the Black Walnut Point Inn in Tilghman Island, Md. (Photo courtesy of Stapes and Zuber.)

A number of gay couples immediately took advantage of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law after it took effect at midnight on Tuesday.

Sabrina Pettis, who is a member of the Maryland National Guard, married her fiancée Natasha at an Annapolis church at 12:01 a.m. Ellicott City residents Dale Knight and Jeff Arney tied the knot at a friend’s Howard County home at the same time, while at least four same-sex couples were expected to exchange vows in Cumberland just after midnight.

Long-time Baltimore mayoral aide James Scales and his partner, William Tasker, are among the seven same-sex couples who tied the knot at Baltimore City Hall once the building opened at 12:30 a.m. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, are among those who attended the weddings.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” Rawlings-Blake said. “It is a remarkable achievement for Maryland, and we are excited to open City Hall to host some of the first wedding ceremonies in our great state. Newly married couples will stand before their friends and family to profess their love and commitment to each other. This is what we worked for, and I am looking forward to take part in this historic and jubilant day.”

More than a dozen same-sex couples are also expected to marry at the gay-owned Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County on Tuesday.

“Tomorrow morning most Marylanders will wake up and go about their regular day — getting kids dressed, cleaning the house, running errands,” Evans told the Washington Blade on Monday. “However, for thousands of LGBT Marylanders they will wake up with the ability to marry the person they love. What a great way to start 2013.”

Maryland is one of nine states and D.C. that allow gays and lesbians to legally marry.

Voters in November backed a referendum in support of the state’s same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed earlier in 2012 by a 52-48 percent margin. Similar ballot measures also passed in Maine and Washington, while Minnesota voters struck down a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Lawmakers in Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island and other states are expected to consider bills in the coming year that would allow same-sex marriage.

“Our engagement began in Maryland a year and a half ago — first in helping get the bill through the legislature and then securing the decisive win on Election Day,” Kevin Nix, spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said on Monday afternoon. “The sheer joy we’ll see on people’s faces tomorrow —both of those married and of their family and friends — is priceless. Looking ahead, the Maryland victory provides real momentum for the next round of states to secure marriage in 2013 and we’re looking forward to fairness, freedom, and family prevailing yet again.”

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

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