BANGOR, Maine — In some ways, it was a typical summer wedding in Maine. Vows were exchanged, lips were locked and couples danced.
“I proclaim my committment out loud to you with pride and joy for all the world to see,” brides and brides, grooms and grooms and brides and grooms said to each other Saturday in West Market Square.
The ceremony, led by two Unitarian Universalist ministers, did not include the standard promises to love and honor. It also wasn’t legal.
That was the point organizers of Bangor’s annual Pride Festival and parade wanted to make — a majority of the couples who took part in the mock wedding ceremony can’t legally marry under Maine law because they are of the same sex.
If a referendum on the ballot in November is approved by voters, same-sex couples would be able to wed.
“We’re very much in love and a committed couple,” Debbie Dunkle, 60, said about why she and her partner Jan Matter, 70, participated in Saturday’s ceremony. “She’s my fiancee and I’m hers.”
The Holden couple has been together for three years.
“If we were allowed to legally marry, we would get rights we don’t have now like inheritance rights,” Dunkle said.
Same-sex couples must have attorneys set up the legal rights opposite-sex couples get when they say, “I do.”
Greg Music, 56, and his partner, Mark Bridges-Music, 42, both of Bangor, are planning to get married Labor Day weekend 2013. That’s the second date they’ve set. The first was for the same weekend in 2010.
Their plans were scuttled when a same-sex marriage bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci more than three years ago was repealed. Mainers on Nov. 3, 2009, voted 53 percent to 47 percent to invalidate the law.
After the loss at the ballot box, EqualityMaine began an outreach campaign to talk about the issue and began gathering signatures in August 2011 to put a question before voters again. Advocates turned in petitions from 453 towns and cities on Jan. 26. The Maine Secretary of State’s Office announced in February that enough valid signatures had been turned in to put the question on the ballot.
Violet DeCarlos, 37, who attended Saturday’s festivities with her partner Nycole Grenier, 27, and their two dogs, said it was more important this year than in previous years to attend because of the pending election. The Milford couple sported multicolored leis, as did their dogs, Libra, a 2-year-old Siberian husky, and Brock, a 7-year-old Boxer mix.
Rainbows inundated Bangor’s downtown Saturday as the f estival got underway with a parade down Main Street to West Market Square.
Banners, streamers, shirts, flags and balloons were adorned with rainbow colors symbolizing support for and pride in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
More than 100 people took part in the parade, then crowded into West Market Square. Organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the festival during the afternoon and early evening.
The parade, sponsored by Queen City Pride, included children carrying signs that read, “I have two moms,” and a man carrying one that read, “Adam and Steve? You betcha!” Members of Central Maine Roller Derby skated down Main Street with signs that encouraged spectators to “Skate, Don’t Hate.”
Groups that support same-sex marriage including EqualityMaine, the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, the Penobscot County Democrats and the First Universalist Church of Pittsfield marched in the parade.
While members of a small local church regularly protested during gay pride parades in the 1990s, no one appeared to be protesting this year’s parade or festival, although Protect Marriage Maine is running the campaign in opposition to the referendum.
Bangor’s first gay pride parade was held in 1992 and organized by a student at the University of Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News archives.
Mainers United for Marriage, the campaign supporting the referendum, had workers wandering the downtown area with clipboards, talking to attendees.
“We’re looking for volunteers to help out,” Mikayla Reed, a field organizer for EqualityMaine working on the campaign, said. “We’re asking people to get involved and help us change hearts and minds.”
The 17-year-old Ellsworth resident will be old enough to vote by Election Day. She has been part of teams of workers going door-to-door talking to people about gay marriage.
“The response has been very positive,” Reed said. “People who are conflicted have been very open in talking about that and, in talking with them, they are changing their minds to support us.”
This is the fourth year the Bridge Alliance has sponsored the Pride Festival in West Market Square, Music said Saturday. The Bridge Alliance, founded five years ago, grew out of Northern Maine Pride, which for more than a decade sponsored a gay pride parade in Bangor. The Bridge Alliance also has offered dances, a prom and events for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families, such as Halloween and Christmas parties.