Maryland gay couples ring in the New Year with first same-sex unions

After 35 years together, Jim Scales, 68, and William Tasker, 60, married shortly after midnight on Tuesday, becoming one of the first same-sex couples in Maryland to wed under the state’s new marriage equality law.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, an ordained minister, officiated the ceremony at Baltimore’s city hall, as couples around the state rang in the new year and celebrated the freedom to marry.

“Jim and I met in 1977, and at that time I just really didn’t believe that gay people would ever see the day that they could marry,” Tasker told WBAL-TV.

Scales and Tasker were the first of seven couples to marry at city hall overnight.

Many courthouses are expected to be open today — normally a holiday — for couples who want to marry on the first day possible. Couples in Maryland have been able to obtain their marriage licenses since Dec. 6, with the provision that they could not actually become legally married until the law took effect Jan. 1.

New Years Day marks the culmination of years of work by gay and lesbian Marylanders and their allies to persuade state legislators and voters to support full marriage rights for same sex couples.

On Nov. 6, Maryland joined Maine and Washington state as the first thre states to legalize same-sex marriage at the ballot box, and becomes the ninth U.S. state, along with the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal. The law in Washington state took effect Dec. 6, and on Dec. 29 in Maine.

The measure equality law, which contains exemptions for religious organizations that choose not to marry same-sex couples, passed the Maryland House of Delegates in last February in a close vote. Gov. Martin O’Malley, who promised in his 2010 re-election campaign to work toward enacting marriage equality while in office, made good on his promise and signed the bill in March.

Opponents then gathered enough signatures to put the bill to a statewide vote, which passed on Nov. 6 with 52 percent in favor.

“New Year’s Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” Rawlings-Blake said.

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