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Gay couples in Maine poised for first weddings

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 went into effect at midnight last night.

After waiting years for the opportunity, gay couples in Maine’s largest city didn’t have to wait a moment longer than necessary to get married, with Portland City Hall opening at midnight when the law went 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 Tuesday, the first day of 2013.

Gay marriage was already legal in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, 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 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 today. Falmouth joined Portland in opening at midnight.

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