December 16, 2012

Big Augusta area venues report space available for first day of same-sex marriage

Cold weather probably a major deterrent for places such as Gardiner Common, State House steps and Vaughn Woods

By Susan M. Cover
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- Local and state officials say gay couples have not yet reserved any of the capital area's major public spaces for weddings on Dec. 29.

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Clerk offices in three local cities and towns will be open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 29, so gay and lesbian couples can get marriage licenses on the first day they become available.

Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner will all have staff on hand to process the requests. The town of China has normal Saturday office hours from 8-11 a.m. and will be open as well.

Couples will then have 90 days to get married.

Not the State House steps, or Capitol Park. Not Hallowell City Hall or the Augusta Civic Center or the Gardiner Common.

Augusta City Manager Bill Bridgeo said he can think of several nice spots in the area, but planning a late December wedding in central Maine -- particularly one outside -- is risky.

He said the city's East Side Boat Landing is scenic, as is the public area of the Arsenal campus and the Viles Arboretum, both on Hospital Street. Bridgeo said the back end of Capitol Park, where the state has recently installed a stone wall and renovated the area near Gov. Enoch Lincoln's tomb, would be a charming location. Lincoln was Maine's fifth governor, serving from 1827-1829.

Using Capitol Park or the State House steps requires a permit, and neither had been reserved as of last week, according to Capitol Police.

In Hallowell, Vaughn Woods or the bulkhead on the Kennebec River would be nice spots, local officials said, although the weather could be a major factor.

"If somebody is interested in getting married that day and they wanted a city facility, they would use City Hall," Hallowell City Manager Michael Starn said.

In Gardiner, a permit is required to use the Common, and no one has reserved it, a town official said.

The Augusta Civic Center, which is sometimes booked for weddings, is slated to host a high school basketball tournament on Dec. 29.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643


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