BALTIMORE - Same sex couples in Maryland rang in the New Year by making history. Thanks to a change in state law; those couples are now able to legally marry for the first time. Many started their new lives with their partners with a special ceremony at Baltimore's City Hall.
See a slideshow of the marriages here !
In Baltimore, kisses sealed the commitments as same sex couples took their first opportunity to marry legally in Maryland. Many of the love birds threw out the idea of long range plans, saying they couldn't wait another moment to say ‘I do'. As a result just after the stroke of midnight, many lined up to get married, including Bill Tasker and his partner, Jim Scales. Tasker says, "This was a surprise to me. My partner came home with the marriage license and said we're getting married and we're getting married on New Year's Eve."
Tasker has been in love for 35 years. He says he didn't need a piece of paper to know it was real, but the change in the law makes it official, "Jim and I met back in 1977 and we never dreamed that gays would be able to marry, so that alone makes today extremely special."
The ceremony was 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.
Tasker's magical day was made even more memorable thanks to a special guest. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who works with Scales, says she was ordained to perform marriages so she could marry the pair and other couples. In an interview following the ceremony, Rawlings-Blake joked, "I'm available. Just tell me what date you want."
The Mayor's calendar may fill up quickly as anxious couples line up to take advantage of the new law. Shehan Welihindha and Ryan Wilson drove up from South Carolina to get married on this special night. They're part of Maryland history, although their union won't be honored at home. Wilson says, "Our paperwork will not be recognized for any benefits from the state level, but it doesn't mean any less to us."
For the couples who took part in the city ceremony, the significance was still there. But many want more than just symbolism. Tasker, for one, wants to see equality across the board and across the nation, "We still have a long way to go."