November 8, 2012

First same-sex weddings likely in January

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA -- As soon as marriage licenses become available to same-sex couples, Maggie Oechslie and Alissa Poisson will be the first in line.

Alissa Poisson and Maggie Oechslie of South Portland hold a certificate that Maggie’s father made and presented to the couple at their public commitment ceremony last year. Now, with Tuesday’s approval of the same-sex marriage initiative, they plan to be first in line to get a legal Maine marriage license. They are expecting their first child in May.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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The South Portland couple who are expecting their first child in May say they've already had a public commitment ceremony to celebrate their love in front of friends and family. Now they want the official, legal piece of paper that gives them all the rights and responsibilities enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

"For me, I just don't see anything wrong with being in love," Oechslie said. "I really just love Alissa."

Maine was one of four states to vote on gay marriage on Tuesday, passing a citizens initiative to allow it by a 53 percent to 47 percent vote. The new law will likely take effect in early January, following a 20-day period for the secretary of state to certify the results, a 10-day period for the governor to sign off on them, and a 30 day waiting period.

For Oechslie and Poisson and hundreds of other gays and lesbians in Maine, there are also practical considerations beyond love. Oechslie is concerned that if they are not married when the baby is born, she will have no biological or legal tie to the child. Married couples are instantly recognized as parents, and spouses are not questioned if there's an emergency involving a family member.

There are tax and inheritance implications as well, although same sex couples will need to be aware that while the state will now recognize their union, the federal government will not, said Bruce Bell, who manages a legal information line at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in Boston.

The group has set up a legal hotline for Maine same-sex couples thinking of getting married and it will soon produce a pamphlet with advice about Maine law as well.

Maine law contains hundreds of references to marriage, spouses, husbands, and wives in varying contexts, but GLAD has outlined 10 categories of legal protections for married couples. Among them are the ability to transfer real property to each other without paying a real estate transfer tax, the requirement that spouses cannot be forced to share private marital communications in lawsuits, and the power to receive state retirement accidental death benefits or workers' compensation payments.

The new law will recognize same-sex unions performed in other states that recognize gay marriage. So if a Maine couple has already traveled to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut or Iowa to get married, their union will now be recognized in Maine, Bell said.

Other tips for getting hitched, according to GLAD:

* The couple must go to the town clerk's office in the town where either of them resides to get a license.

* They then have 90 days to get married.

* Marriages can be performed by a justice of the peace, judge, notary public, attorney, or an ordained clergy member.

* The ceremony must be witnessed by two people other than the officiant, and signed by the couple, officiant, and witnesses.

* The officiant must return the certificate to the town clerk within seven days of the ceremony.

Oechslie, 28, general manager at Maine Running Company and Poisson, 33, a Portland police officer, already have a framed marriage certificate from their 2011 ceremony at Clay Hill Farm in Cape Neddick.

Soon, they will have the real thing.

"That was the one thing both of our families were really sad about," Oechslie said. "For us, it really is just that piece of paper."

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

scover@mainetoday.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about getting married under Maine's new same-sex marriage law, call Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders at 1-800-455-4523 or send an email to gladlaw@glad.org.

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