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Portland, Maine

Same-sex marriage begins in Maine today

PORTLAND, Maine — Chris Kast and Byron Bartlett already consider themselves married after a 2010 ceremony overlooking Portland Harbor, but now they’re doing it all over again, planning to be among the first to get a marriage license when Maine’s same-sex marriage law goes into effect.

After waiting years for the opportunity, gay couples in Maine’s largest city will not have to wait a moment longer than necessary to get married, with Portland City Hall opening at midnight Saturday, when the law takes effect, to issue the first marriage licenses under its provisions.

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Nobody knew exactly how many couples would be rushing to get their marriage ­licenses early Saturday. Falmouth joined Portland in opening at midnight. A handful of other communities — ­including Bangor, Brunswick and Augusta — planned to hold special Saturday hours.

Voters approved gay marriage in November, making Maine and two other states the first to do so by popular vote. The law is already in effect in Washington state; Maryland’s takes effect on Tuesday, the first day of 2013.

Gay marriage was already legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, but those laws were either enacted by lawmakers or through court rulings.

The Maine Legislature had once approved same-sex marriage, but it was overturned by a statewide referendum three years ago, crushing couples who had already made wedding plans.

Supporters of gay marriage collected signatures to put it on the ballot again, and this time it was easily approved.

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