“I just officiated my first gay wedding,” said Mayor Charlotte Warren. “One of the most beautiful, loving, and light-filled experiences.”
More than 40 same sex couples obtained marriage licenses in the 10 or so communities from Portland to Hallowell to Brunswick to Bangor on December 29, 2012. Many clerk’s offices around the state opened at midnight for the special occasion. Twelve couples were married almost immediately in city or town halls. Some had married in other states but made it official in Maine- their home.
Many said now they are equal in the eyes of society. The majority, 53 percent agreed last November when these citizen voted to approve same sex marriage. That cultural shift didn’t happen overnight, in fact just three years ago the majority of Mainers voted against the measure.
Back in 2009 Governor John Baldacci signed the a bill that passed through the legislature which approved same sex couple marriage because he became aware of the inequalities that were happening to couples legally. Those civil rights violations were wide ranging from not being able to claim property after a death of a partner to not being able to be at the bedside of a dying loved one because the better-half wasn’t officially a “family member.”
Public hearings took place at the Augusta Civic Center. Before then, no state had passed marriage equality without having a judge act first. In the end Gov. Baldacci decided that the right thing to do for couples who love each other of the same sex was to allow them to legally get married. He was given the information, met with people and made up his mind as a Catholic. But at that time the majority of Mainers were still in the dark, not understanding the reasoning why equal rights for same sex couples was so important under the law. And the People’s Veto to overturn the law prevailed in November of 2009.
Public opinion has changed nationally and in Maine since then. A vast campaign to talk to people about the issue got under way. Over 200,000 doors were knocked on – nearly half of all the houses in the state – and in every major city campaign volunteers were out talking to people in all kinds of weather. Baldacci held “spaghetti suppers with Catholic charities, and other public events were held to raise awareness.
Many republicans and Democrats became united on this issue.
Person-to-person contacts took place across the country. Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell, the law that made it illegal for military personal to proclaim their sexual orientation if they were gay or a lesbian, ended with President Barack Obama. And President Obama declared that he endorsed marriage equality.
Maine became the first state to allow same sex marriages because of a people’s referendum.
Bangor City councilman Joe Baldacci married couples in Bangor on 29 December.
“Today, it is news. Soon it will be a matter of course just like any couples in love being married,” he said. “And that’s how it always should be.”