Clerks in some Maine cities, towns set for Saturday launch of same-sex marriage law

Posted Dec. 28, 2012, at 7:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Clerks in at least nine Maine municipalities have scheduled office hours Saturday for couples who want to be among the first to catch the same-sex wedding wave.

Bangor, Brewer, Augusta, Brunswick, Falmouth, Gardiner, Hallowell, Portland and South Portland are among the Maine communities that are providing the service, according to David Farmer, spokesman for EqualityMaine, a Portland-based gay rights advocacy group.

Farmer said Friday that several Maine town and city offices have regular Saturday hours and also could be issuing marriage licenses that day.

Under the state’s same-sex marriage law, which becomes effective on Saturday, the marriages of Mainers who married outside the state now are recognized as legal, Farmer said.

In anticipation of the legalization of same-sex marriage, the state’s marriage license has been amended to reflect the new gender-neutral nature of Maine marriages, Deputy State Registrar Roberta Fogg said Friday.

Among the changes are that a “spouse” option has been added for parties entering marriage, known as “Party A” and “Party B.” Until now, applicants had the choice of checking off the “bride” or “groom” boxes.

“It doesn’t really matter which box you check off. It’s strictly the choice [of the people who are marrying]. We don’t care about who is applying. It’s our philosophy to be gender-neutral. A marriage license is a marriage license. Period. The end,” Fogg said.

While applicants will continue to be asked to provide their ages, dates and places of birth, first, middle and current last names and any suffixes, they now have the option of providing either their maiden surname or birth surname. In the past, the “maiden surname” question was asked only of brides, Fogg said.

Also new is a gender question that Fogg said “is basically used for statistical purposes” to avoid having to guess the sex of a married person who checked spouse based solely on his or her name.

Fogg said the amended Maine marriage license is closely based on that developed by Vermont, the first state to authorize same-sex marriage through legislation rather than a court ruling.

On Nov. 6, Maine became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry through a popular vote of the people, according to EqualityMaine.

On Saturday, four city staffers will be on hand from 6 to 8 a.m. at Bangor City Hall to issue marriage licenses, Deputy City Clerk Dianne Lovejoy said Friday. In addition, she said, at least eight local notaries public — including City Councilor Joseph Baldacci — have volunteered to be there to perform weddings.

While it wasn’t clear Friday exactly how many couples would show up, Lovejoy said that three couples have confirmed they plan to pick up licenses and two indicated they plan to marry at City Hall that morning.

Brewer officials also are opening their City Hall from 6 to 8 a.m. to anyone who wants to apply for a marriage license, according to member of the city clerk’s office staff.

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