'It's about our future': Same-sex couples make marriage history in Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — Katherine Wilder and Margaret O’Connell first talked about getting married in 2009, but they didn’t know how to make that happen until it became a legal possibility in Maine on Dec. 29, 2012.

Wilder and O’Connell, accompanied by their dog Blue, were one of the first same-sex couples to get married in Brunswick on Saturday.

The town office was open 9 a.m.-noon to issue marriage licenses for couples eager to take advantage of the new state law. Seven couples obtained marriage licenses that day, according to the town clerk’s office.

“It feels wonderful. It’s something that we’ve been looking forward to,” O’Connell said. “We got our domestic partnership in 2010 to legally protect ourselves, and now we just want to legally protect our marriage.”

“It’s about our future,” Wilder added.

Maine voters approved a referendum on Election Day last year that legalized same-sex marriage. Several municipalities, including Portland, Falmouth and South Portland, opened their offices on Saturday to issue marriage licenses. 

In addition to having a clerk provide marriage licenses, Portland had a notary public available to make wedding vows official. Maine no longer has a waiting period before couples can get married. In Falmouth, the town clerk’s office opened at midnight for two couples who made appointments ahead of time.

Town Clerk Fran Smith said Brunswick decided to hold special hours on Saturday at the request of a few citizens and town councilors.

“Considering (the same-sex marriage measure) won by a 2-1 (margin) in Brunswick, we decided to open,” Smith said.

Town Council Vice Chairman Ben Tucker offered to perform marriages on the spot.

“I’m always been a supporter of marriage equality,” Tucker said. “… (Today) demonstrates Brunswick’s commitment to  equality and that Brunswick is a welcoming and diverse community.”

State Rep. Matthea Daughtry, D-Brunswick, was on hand to congratulate the couples.

“I grew up with two aunts who are gay,” Daughtry said, ” … and when I was in elementary school I used to draw my family tree, which had two women – and I used to get teased about it when I was little – so I’ve been waiting to see this my whole life.”

Before Saturday, the town clerk’s office had asked couples to make appointments to receive marriage licenses that day, but that didn’t stop them from helping two couples who came in unexpected.

Rose Strong and Joanne Graziano, of Pennsylvania, were visiting family in town when they realized they could get married in a state that would legally recognize their vows.

(Under state law, couples where neither partner is a Maine resident may obtain marriage licenses at any municipal office in the state.)

“We were supposed to leave this morning, but heard that there was some bad weather moving up the coast,” Strong said. “So we thought we’d leave tomorrow and thought we would do this today. We were planning on later in the year, but we figured we’ll strike when the iron’s hot.”

The two have been together for 26 years and eventually plan to move to Maine, she said.

Since marriage for same-sex couples is not recognized in Pennsylvania, their marriage will only be recognized in nine states, including Maine, and Washington, D.C.

“Considering I’d like to move up here sometime, it’s nice to know that it will be legal here in Maine,” Strong said. “Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule that (the Defense of Marriage Act) is unconstitutional – and to tell us that we can’t get married anywhere in the country is unconstitutional – and that will change it all.”

Seth Koenig and Abigail Curtis of the Bangor Daily News and William Hall of The Forecaster contributed to this story. Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.

Sidebar Elements

Katherine Wilder and Margaret O’Connell were married by Town Council Vice Chairman Ben Tucker at the Brunswick Municipal Building on Dec. 29, 2012, the day same-sex marriage became legal in Maine.

Elizabeth Haskell, assistant Bath city clerk, left, on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, helps Grace Meredith Small and Kathryn Parnell, both of Bath, obtain the first marriage license issued to a same-sex couple in the city.

Joanne Graziano and Rose Strong, of Pennsylvania, have been together for 26 years. They decided to tie the knot last weekend while visiting family in Brunswick.