As a result of Maine’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage in November, the Brunswick Town Clerk’s office has begun the process of issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.
The office first opened its doors to same-sex couples on December 29, and has so far issued nine intentions of marriage. Six of these have come back notarized as marriage licenses, according to Town Clerk Fran Smith.
Smith said that although the forms for marriage had been altered to make them more gender-neutral, the Town Clerk’s office had not needed to make any significant changes to the rest of the process.
“The only thing that’s changed is that couples of the same sex can now come in to be married,” said Smith.
Although they have not yet had much time to observe, the Town Clerk’s Office expects an increase in the number of licenses issued each year.
“You’re allowing a new population of couples to marry,” said Smith. “Folks have been waiting many years.”
She added, “On our first day of being open [to same-sex couples], we had seven couples come in. We never have seven couples a day.”
Members of the Bowdoin community are enthusiastic about the new options open to same-sex couples.
“Brunswick, like all areas of the state, has existing, committed, loving gay and lesbian couples as part of the community, and these couples now have the opportunity to receive legal rights and protections and make a public declaration of their commitment,” said Director of Career Planning Timothy Diehl, a board member of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Maine.
Kate Stern, director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, echoed these sentiments, but also emphasized that the most exciting part of the new law was the increased range of choices for same-sex couples.
“I think that whether people decide to get married or not is less of an issue, but the bigger issue is that people know that they have the ability to get married and to be treated equally if they choose to,” said Stern. “Just like all heterosexual people didn’t have to get married before, people in same-sex relationships now have the choice.”
“This is an important legal and statewide recognition, but it hasn’t fundamentally changed the commitment to each other that [same-sex couples] have had,” said Diehl.
He also added that he does not believe that the new law will result in significant change in attitudes in Brunswick.
“I think Brunswick is a very inclusive and supportive community, and has been for a long time,” said Diehl.