by Annee Tara
Coastal Journal contributor
BRUNSWICK — It’s official! Maine has joined the growing number of states that permit gay and lesbian couples to get marriage licenses. Seven happy couples took advantage of special hours at Brunswick Town Hall on Saturday, when Town Clerk Fran Smith announced that her Office would open to issue marriage licenses on the very first day they were legally available to same-sex partners in Maine.
The license applicants were actually outnumbered by friends, supporters and representatives of the media, all adding to the historic, but festive, atmosphere. Town Councilor Ben Tucker is an attorney, and therefore authorized to perform marriages. He was on hand “just in case” any of the couples wanted to go forward with their wedding on the spot. He had on the same neck-tie that he wore at his own wedding 12 years ago.
“It’s good luck,” said Tucker.
For some of these couples, getting a license was merely a formality; they are all in long-term committed relationships, some for as long as 25 or 30 years. Most have already had a commitment ceremony. Many have had a reception to celebrate their union with family and friends.
Mary Parker and Rebecca Roak are two that have had the commitment – they’ve been together seven years – and the celebration; but they want to be legally married.
“We’re a responsible and loving family, and now, with a child, it’s important,” said Parker as she held their 22-month-old daughter Grace, while Roak filled out the form for the license. “Thanks to all the people who were out there on the front lines,” she said, to make marriage equality a reality in Maine.
The Initiative, passed in November, asked voters if they “want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.” It passed statewide by a margin of 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. In Brunswick, the measure was supported by a two-to-one majority. Smith said her office was open on Saturday because it’s “the thing to do for Brunswick residents.”
Two couples took Tucker up on his offer to officiate, including Margaret O’Connell and Katherine Wilder. Councilor Sarah Brayman was on hand and served as a witness when they took their vows. O’Connell and Wilder, too, had celebrated their union over a year ago at St. Luke’s Church in Portland. But this was “important to us; to legally protect our union. And we wanted to be part of it,” said O’Connell, who has worked for marriage equality and other equal rights issues in Maine and Connecticut.
While Maine and two other states – Washington and Maryland – extended the right to marry to same-sex couples in November, bringing the total number of states with marriage equality laws up to nine, plus the District of Columbia, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, is still in effect nationally, which means that equal rights are not recognized for purposes of federal law, including benefits for federal workers and federal tax laws. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to DOMA during the current term, as well as challenge to California’s denial of marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. But for now, in Brunswick and all over the State of Maine, marriage equality is a reality.