May 27, 2018
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Bangor City Hall to open on Saturday, Dec. 29, to issue same-sex marriage licenses

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor City Hall will open Saturday morning, Dec. 29, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on the first day they can obtain them under a law passed by voters Nov. 6.

City employees will be on hand to issue licenses from 6 to 8 a.m.

After a surprise addition to Monday night’s agenda, the City Council voted 5-3 to open City Hall to allow couples to be married as soon as possible. Only Bangor residents may obtain a marriage license in Bangor.

The decision to have a council vote came after councilors met prior to the meeting with a same-sex Bangor couple who told councilors they would like to be married on Dec. 29, councilors said.

The previous City Council, which had six of the same members as this year’s council, unanimously supported an October resolution to put its support behind the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine, which passed the next month.

That resolve was preceded by an emotional speech from Bangor resident Cara Pelletier in which she thanked the council for its support.

Councilors Joe Baldacci, James Gallant, Benjamin Sprague, Charlie Longo and Council Chairman Nelson Durgin each supported opening City Hall. Councilors Patricia Blanchette, David Nealley and Pauline Civiello each voted against the motion, citing concerns about finances and fairness. Councilor Susan Hawes was absent from the meeting.

Blanchette said that while she supported the same-sex marriage referendum, she wouldn’t support spending taxpayer money on a “special exception.”

“One more day or two more days is not going to sink the ship,” Blanchette said. The other councilors who opposed the motion echoed Blanchette’s concern about finances and also argued that couples could wait until City Hall opens during its regular hours on Monday.

Gallant argued that City Hall has opened for other reasons at odd hours, citing examples of New Years celebrations and election nights. Baldacci stressed that any couple, regardless of orientation, may get married on Dec. 29.

“There is a time and place for all history to change, and I think we shouldn’t make anybody wait for their dream any longer than they already have,” Gallant said.

“I want to make sure on that Saturday morning … that these folks can pursue the happiness they deserve,” Longo said.

City Clerk Lisa Goodwin said after the meeting that four or five city employees would work those two morning hours at a cost of a few hundred dollars. She said she doesn’t have budgeted funds to cover the costs, and that the city might have to find savings elsewhere.

“Waiting a couple extra days won’t hurt, and this way there won’t be a stretch for the city clerk’s budget,” Civiello said in explaining why she opposed the motion.

Councilor Joe Baldacci has volunteered to serve as a notary and perform marriage ceremonies after couples obtain their licenses, Goodwin said, adding that the city is hoping other notaries will volunteer their time.

Bangor joins Portland, Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner and Brunswick on the list of Maine communities that have announced they will open up on the morning of Dec. 29 to issue licenses.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council voted to:

• Authorize City Manager Cathy Conlow to execute a collective bargaining agreement between the city and a union representing support staff at Bangor Police Department.

• Transfer administrative duties of the Historic Preservation Committee to the Planning Department because it has greater staff capacity than the Code Enforcement Office, which currently handles the duties.

• Authorize Conlow to accept a $73,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help homeless individuals and families afford rent. This is the first year of the five-year grant. Each recipient is expected to have a case manager who assists them with healthy living, financial literacy and finding employment.

Correction: An earlier version of this article requires clarification. A meeting held before the Bangor City Council meeting was attended by several Bangor residents, both gay and straight, who asked councilors to open City Hall to recognize the historic significance of the vote to allow same-sex marriage, according to Cara Pelletier, who was among those who spoke at the meeting. Pelletier’s fiancee did not attend, as was previously reported.

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