December 31, 2012

Same-sex couples not rushing to wed, region's town clerks report

By Keith Edwards kedwards@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Just a handful of couples in the region sought state marriage licenses from local municipal offices on Monday, the first full day of regular business since gay marriage became legal in Maine.

click image to enlarge

Brian Kaufman, left, and Martin Swinger, right, sing "Stuck On You" from the musical "Whoop-Dee-Doo" to each other during their wedding on Saturday at Slates Restaurant in Hallowell. Their wedding was officiated by Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren, center. Town clerks in central Maine reported only a handful of same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses on Monday, the first business day after Maine's same-sex marriage law went into effect, on Saturday. Some municipal offices in Maine, including Gardiner, Hallowell and Winthrop, opened on Saturday to accommodate marriage licenses and other municipal business.

Staff file photo by Joe Phelan

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They joined a handful of same-sex couples who got married Saturday, when a few Maine municipalities opened for a few hours to accommodate couples' desires to get married as soon as state law would allow.

Augusta, Gardiner and Hallowell opened for a short time Saturday to issue marriage licenses, with Augusta issuing four. Gardiner and Hallowell issued one apiece.

As of Monday afternoon, only Gardiner had granted any other couples marriage licenses, issuing two that day. Neither of the two couples who received their marriage licenses Monday got married at Gardiner City Hall — unlike Sebastien and Lance Wallace, who were wed by Kathleen Cutler, tax collector and deputy treasurer, in a brief marriage ceremony in City Council chambers Saturday.

In Augusta, where four couples received marriage licenses Saturday, no one had come to Augusta City Center by mid-afternoon Monday seeking a license to marry, according to City Clerk Barbara Wardwell. Likewise, city officials in Hallowell did not receive any requests for a marriage license Monday.

Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren, who worked for gay couples' right to marry in Maine as a paid staff member of Catholics for Marriage Equality, is also a minister. She performed the marriage ceremony of longtime couple Martin Swinger and Brian Kaufman, of Augusta, on Saturday in Hallowell.

Warren said Kaufman was one of her professors at the University of Maine at Farmington. At the university, Kaufman was an advisor to a group Warren was involved in that worked on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues.

That history made it special for her to be able to officiate his wedding, she said.

"It has been such a long battle; I still don't really have a lot of words to describe the feeling," Warren said Monday. "It's just something I do because I want to do it. How can you not say yes to something that has so much to do with love?"

Town officials in Richmond, where the town office did not open Saturday, said no residents sought a marriage license Monday.

As of Monday morning, municipal clerks in Farmington, Skowhegan and Waterville reported no same-sex couples had yet applied for marriage licenses.

Waterville Deputy Clerk Joyce Tillson said a few couples had called after the election, wanting to know the first day they could file for a license; but her office had not received any phone calls or marriage license applications recently.

"I really thought the phones would be ringing off the hook," she said.

Farmington Town Clerk Leanne Pinkham said she has not spoken with any same-sex couples interested in marriage licenses yet. "Today's just been about taxes and snowmobiles," she said Monday.

Ian Grady, spokesman for EqualityMaine, which advocated for the successful Nov. 6 referendum to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine, said neither the organization nor the state knew how many same-sex couples chose to get married Saturday or Monday.

Grady said some same-sex couples probably will take their time in planning and scheduling their marriages, while others are in a hurry to make their long-standing commitments to each other legal marriages as soon as they can.

"Some folks have been waiting a really long time and didn't want to wait one minute more," Grady said. "It's a deeply personal decision. We're just excited that when someone wants to get married, they have that freedom now. Obviously this is a really happy day and it is wonderful to see loving, committed couples who have been together and waiting for years, sometimes decades, to have the opportunity to stand before their friends and family and be married."

 

Staff Writer Kaitlin Schroeder contributed to this report.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
kedwards@centralmaine.com

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