December 29, 2012

44 couples obtain marriage licenses

The legal barrier dismantled by November’s vote, same-sex couples line up to make "it official."

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Michael Snell and Steven Bridges emerged from City Hall early Saturday and stepped into history, as the first of at least a dozen gay couples across Maine who exchanged wedding vows on the first day for same-sex partners to marry.

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Mary Parker, holding Grace, 22 months, becomes emotional as her partner for seven years, Becky Roak, fills out paperwork for a marriage license at Brunswick Town Hall Saturday morning.

Tom Bell/Staff Writer

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Heidi Caton holds the marriage license and her partner, Julie Nowell, looks at her rings as same-sex couples received marriage certificates at South Portland City Hall on Saturday. The wedding ceremony was planned for Saturday afternoon.

Gordon Chibroski /Staff Photographer

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Forty-four couples obtained marriage licenses in the 10 or so communities from Portland to Bangor that opened their clerk’s offices as early as midnight for the special occasion. Fourteen were married almost immediately in city or town halls, while a few others were planning private ceremonies Saturday.

While the total number of licenses and marriages may have been small, the meaning was huge for the couples and those who gathered to witness the ceremonies.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Mary Donaldson, 63, of Portland, after she and Roberta Batt, 71, partners for 30 years, were married in the City Council chamber.

“I’m really a private person, so all of this is really too much,” Donaldson said, still shaken by the ceremony. “But I’m grateful to the people of Maine for making it happen.”

In South Portland, City Clerk Susan Mooney lined up wedding cakes for the three couples who came into her office to be married starting at 8 a.m. Saturday. Mooney issued eight marriage licenses, including one that went to Heidi Caton and Julie Nowell.

The two were tying the knot before a group of family members at Bug Light Park Saturday afternoon, followed by dinner at the Corner Room in Portland.

The couple, who had a big unofficial wedding last June, said they want to make their marriage legal.

“We are dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s,” said Nowell, who intends to take Caton’s last name.

The doors of Town Hall opened for marriage licenses at 9 a.m. in Brunswick, where the couples getting married included Mary Parker and Becky Roak. They brought with them their 22-month-old daughter, Grace, the birth child of Roak.

Parker said it was important to get married because it gives legal protection to Grace in the event of their deaths as well as assuring her own legal status as a mother of Grace.

“Being a parent is a beautiful thing and I am just really happy to have this opportunity. Grace is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Parker said.

Other towns that issued marriage licenses or hosted ceremonies Saturday morning included Augusta, Bangor, Brewer, Falmouth, Freeport, Gardiner and Hallowell.

In Portland, couples began arriving at City Hall around 9:30 p.m. and lined up to enter at 10 p.m. A band played standards in the foyer and well-wishers supplied flowers and cupcakes. Two protesters were soon outnumbered by the crowd of supporters that gathered on the plaza in front of City Hall.

As the activities began, City Hall repeatedly erupted with cheers.

Family members, friends and others woo-hooed each time a gay couple emerged from the city clerk’s office, clutching one of the 15 marriage licenses that were issued there.

Bystanders cheered again for each of the six couples who got married at City Hall between midnight and 2 a.m. Three weddings were officiated by city clerks; three were officiated by notaries.

And a crowd of nearly 300 well-wishers greeted couples with shouts of congratulations and strains of “All You Need Is Love” as they departed City Hall arm in arm.

For most of the couples who got married, the vows weren’t fancy, the surroundings weren’t ideal and the process of applying for a license took longer than the ceremony itself.

The clerks asked each couple if they would take their significant other as a “lawfully wedded spouse” and at the end pronounced them “married.”

But the simplicity didn’t faze the couples or their guests, including Katie Snell, whose father, Michael Snell, 53, and his partner of nine years, Steven Bridges, 42, were the first gay couple to be married in Maine, shortly after midnight.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Steve Bridges, left, and Michael Snell, both of Portland, kiss after being the first couple to be married at Portland City Hall on Saturday morning, December 29, 2012.

Gregory Rec / Staff Photographer

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Lucie Bauer, left, and Annie Kiermaier, of Rockport, Maine, celebrate the imminent recognition of their marriage in their home state, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Portland, Maine. The couple was married in California in 2008. Same-sex couples in Maine will be allowed to marry as a new law goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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Michael Snell and Steven Bridges of Portland wait in line at Portland City Hall to be the first gay couple in Maine to be married on Friday, Dec. 28, 2012.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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The first five same-sex couples who arrived to get marriage certificates walk up the steps of Portland City Hall on Friday, December 28, 2012.

Gabe Souza

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Michael Snell and Steven Bridges of Portland wait in line at Portland City Hall to be the first gay couple in Maine to be married on Friday, December 28, 2012.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

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Gail Berenson of Portland holds a sign in support of same-sex marriage outside Portland City Hall Friday, December 28, 2012, before the first same sex marriages in Maine were performed. Berenson was part of a group that demonstrated in front of the Cathedral for the past three years.

Gabe Souza

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Steven Jones, left, and Jamous Lizotte wear laurel wreaths as they arrive at City Hall to obtain a marriage license, Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, in Portland, Maine. Same-sex couples in Maine will be allowed to marry as a new law goes into effect at 12:01 AM Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)


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