PORTLAND, Maine – Chris Kast and Byron Bartlett already consider themselves married after a 2010 ceremony overlooking Portland Harbor, but now they're doing it all over again – planning to be among the first to get a marriage license when Maine's same-sex marriage law goes into effect at midnight.
After waiting years for the opportunity, gay couples in Maine's largest city won't have to wait a moment longer than necessary to get married, with Portland City Hall opening at midnight when the law goes into effect to issue the first marriage licenses under the new law.
With their four daughters home for the holidays, Kast and Bartlett, both formerly married to women, decided they would wed on the spot after getting their marriage license. They didn't see the need for another big ceremony.
"This is putting a period on an important sentence for us," said Kast, 52, who has been with Bartlett, 42, for more than six years. "We're going to finish it, and put it behind us."
Voters approved gay marriage in November, making Maine and two other states the first to do so by popular vote. The law is already in effect in Washington state; Maryland's takes effect on Tuesday, the first day of 2013.
Gay marriage was already legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, but those laws were either enacted by lawmakers or through court rulings.
The Maine Legislature had once approved same-sex marriage, but it was overturned by a statewide referendum three years ago, crushing couples who had already made wedding plans. Gay marriage supporters collected signatures to put it on the ballot again, and this time it was easily approved.
Gov. Paul LePage signed off on the certified election results on Nov. 29, so the new law was to go into effect 30 days from that date. In addition to gay marriage becoming legal, same-sex marriages in other states will now be recognized by the state of Maine.
Nobody knew exactly how many couples would be rushing to get their marriage licenses early Saturday. Falmouth joined Portland in opening at midnight. A handful of other communities including Bangor, Brunswick and Augusta planned to hold special Saturday hours.
Suzanne Blackburn and Joanie Kunian, of Portland, were among those hoping to get their license at midnight, but they didn't plan to wed immediately. One of their grandchildren wanted them to get married on Valentine's Day.
"I don't think that we dared to dream too big until we had the governor's signature," Blackburn said. "That's why it's so important, because it feels real."
At least one other couple, Donna Galluzzo and Lisa Gorney, planned a midnight wedding with all the trappings. They were dining Friday night with friends, and then planned to take a limo to City Hall. They had their rings, flowers, wedding vows and a friend to perform the ceremony.
They realized that they would have to be good-natured and go with the flow, because they didn't know how many other couples might have the same thought. But they didn't want to wait.
"We decided it's a historic day and we thought it would be awesome to be a small part of history, to say we got married on the first day it's legal," Galluzzo said.
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