NEWLYWEDS Suzanne Blackburn and Joanie Kunian of Portland were wed when Maine's same-sex marriage law took effect as 2012 came to a close.
Thousands of same-sex marriages will take place in the Pine Tree State over the next few years, and it all started at 12:01 am on Saturday, December 29. At Portland City Hall and in several other city and town halls across Maine, same-sex couples were able to obtain their marriage licenses ($40), actually get married ($125), and receive their marriage certificates ($15) during the waning hours of 2012.
A celebratory atmosphere was expected in Portland, where EqualityMaine, the ACLU of Maine, and hundreds of supporters were planning to pass out refreshments and cheer on the nuptials (the Phoenix went to press before midnight on Friday). Inside the building, where couples, immediate family, and limited guests were permitted, the local jazz trio Standard Issue donated a performance of "timeless love songs" between 10 pm and 1 am; outside, a Facebook-assembled choir sang "All You Need is Love" (and, presumably, engaged in other joyful sing-alongs).
Among those planning to be first in line at the city clerk's office were Suzanne Blackburn and Joanie Kunian, of Portland, who have been together for almost eight years. Although friends often wondered why they didn't simply get married in nearby Massachusetts, which has permitted gay marriage since 2004, the couple insisted on waiting until it was legal in their home state. Now, it is. "We were pinching ourselves," Blackburn recalled of election night. "It's taken a while to sink in."
Blackburn and Kunian intended only to apply for their license on Saturday morning — the ceremony and party will take place at a later date (their seven-year-old granddaughter has suggested a Valentine's Day wedding). Portland couple Chris Kast and Byron Bartlett, on the other hand, will take care of everything in one fell swoop.
NEWLYWEDS Mel Cloutier and Lisa Ward of Lisbon Falls
Kast and Bartlett, who went on their first date six and a half years ago, began planning their commitment ceremony as a wedding after the same-sex marriage bill passed the state legislature three years ago, only to have gay marriage be repealed by voters in 2009. Still, they pledged their love to each other at a bittersweet ceremony in front of friends and family on July 17, 2010; each of them was walked down the aisle at the Ocean Gateway terminal by his two daughters from a previous heterosexual marriage.
Those same four daughters, now aged 13 to 25, would be present again on Saturday morning, when the couple planned to wed — civil ceremony and all — at City Hall. "We just want to get on with our lives," Kast said.
As Kast puts it, getting married at midnight (or shortly thereafter) wasn't any sort of political statement, nor was it even meant to spur discussion. For longtime committed couples, finally being able to get gay-married, paperwork and all, is merely "an emphatic period on an important sentence."
And for Lisbon Falls town councilor Lisa Ward — who, with her partner of 13 years Mel Cloutier, planned to apply for her marriage license first thing Monday morning — it is something of a cherry on top of a long struggle. "We really wanted our marriage license and everything to be dated 2012 because we worked really hard for it this year," Ward said. "I'm proud of Maine and I'm proud of our town."