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Congratulations to Maryland
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 01/01/13
Last updated on: 01/01/13
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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake officiates at the marriage of James Scales and William Tasker.

The first same-sex weddings in Maryland took place shortly after midnight on January 1, 2013. In the November 6, 2012 election, voters in the state ratified the marriage equality law that had earlier been approved by the state legislature. Beginning on December 6, same-couples could apply for marriage licenses, but same-sex couples could not actually wed until January 1, 2013.

Marriages were performed soon after midnight at court houses and city halls and in private homes and churches around the state. In Baltimore, seven couples were married at City Hall.

As Kevin Rector reports in the Baltimore Sun, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a staunch supporter of marriage equality, officiated at the marriage of James Scales, a manager in the mayor's office, and his partner William Tasker. The couple have been together for 35 years.

They met in 1977 at Frank & Ronnie's, a gay bar at the time on Boston Street. It was Christmas time and they were both sitting at the bar, Tasker recalled. They started talking, started dating, and not long after, moved in together.

"We never dreamed that gay people would get married. It just didn't seem like a possibility," Tasker said.

"It just means a lot to be able to spend the rest of our lives together, and legally," Scales added.

Judges were also on hand at City Hall to officiate at other weddings. Among them were Darcea Anthony and Danielle Williams, whose wedding was performed by District Judge Christopher Panos.

"It's about so much more than us," said Anthony, dressed in a bright white gown, as Williams stood next to her in a bright white tuxedo. "It's about our friends, just the people who have been there for us through the good and the bad. It's about celebrating our love."

Another couple who married at City Hall was Roy Neal and Bill Countryman of Dallastown, Pennsylvania. They said they were thrilled to finally be getting married, but stressed that there is more to be done in the battle for equal rights.

"It's bittersweet because there are still far too many places, like Pennsylvania, where it's still not happening," said Countryman.

Indeed, marriage equality came to Maryland only after a long, grueling battle. In 2011, after years of lobbying, same-sex marriage legislation finally passed in the state Senate only to fail in the House of Delegates.

Progress was made when Governor O'Malley decided to make the issue a key part of his legislative agenda. That decision sparked even more controversy. The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church and its front group the National Organization for Marriage vowed to defeat the legislation. As a leaked memo from NOM indicated, in order to achieve their objective they plotted to exploit divisions between liberal constituencies, especially between Maryland's large black and glbtq communities.

As reported by USA Today, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore wrote to O'Malley that same-sex marriage violated the governor's faith.

"As advocates for the truths we are compelled to uphold, we speak with equal intensity and urgency in opposition to your promoting a goal that so deeply conflicts with your faith, not to mention the best interests of our society," wrote O'Brien, who served as archbishop of the nation's first diocese from October 2007 to August 2011.

The governor responded to the archbishop that "when shortcomings in our laws bring about a result that is unjust, I have a public obligation to try to change that injustice."

Not only did Governor O'Malley shepherd the marriage equality law through the legislature, but he also led the efforts to ratify it at the polls when opponents forced a referendum on the law.

In the video below, Williams and Anthony exchange vows.

In the video below, Mayor Rawling-Blake performs the wedding of Scales and Tasker.

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