It was so cold standing outside of Portland City Hall on Friday, December 28th at 10:00 p.m., but as the plaza filled with nearly 500 people, there was an undeniable warmth on the faces of everyone there.
The new law that allows same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses went into effect at midnight, December 29th, and the city of Portland and the city of Falmouth began issuing licenses. Steven Bridges and Michael Snell were first in line.
When I heard the news, I remembered attending the Equality Maine annual dinner last March with my new ACLU of Maine colleagues and visiting with Steven and Michael. We talked about the hope that we'd make it across the finish line this time and Maine would join the other states that allowed the freedom to marry.
It was thinking about couples like Stephen and Michael that got me through every difficult moment of the campaign, the times where we worried we might fall short of passing this historical law through a popular vote. When the crowd outside of city hall began a countdown to midnight, I burst into happy tears.
Now, there's just joy ahead. Joy and more progress.
Couples can begin to marry in Maine and Washington and Maryland. Bills are being introduced in Illinois, Rhode Island and Delaware to allow same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court will consider the Proposition 8 case and the ACLU's case about the Defense of Marriage Act. Congress will continue to consider the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Uniting American Families Act.
Here in Maine, we'll keep defending equal protection for all under the law. When we come short, we'll learn from our loss and make up the difference the next time around. When we succeed, we'll use it to fuel ourselves for the next step forward.
I am only 31 years old and an out lesbian. I work without fear of being fired, could choose to openly serve my country in the military and can marry the person I love in my home state. We have a ways to go, but looking back on how far we've come feels nothing short of incredible.
The Bangor Daily News put together a documentary in Portland to capture the energy of the first marriages. You can watch it here.