BANGOR, Maine — Three couples exchanged wedding vows — and a fourth couple obtained a marriage license — early Saturday morning at Bangor City Hall during special office hours scheduled in observance of the launch of Maine’s new same-sex marriage law.

Married were James Beckett and Ken Tidd, Margaret Bagg and Hope Rogers and two women who did not wish to be identified.

Greg Smith, who grew up in Bangor, and Michael Fitzpatrick made the trip from their home in Los Angeles to obtain a license for a wedding that will take place on New Year’s Day, likely in a park in Orono, Smith said.

A fifth couple came to city hall to apply for a marriage license but were asked to return later because they lacked a needed document.

At least 50 people turned up at City Hall to mark the first day same-sex couples in Maine can receive marriage licenses. Joining the four couples who received their licenses were friends and family, eight volunteer notaries public and several members of EqualityMaine who were involved in the same-sex marriage political campaign.

The event generated a great deal of excitement among local gay couples, their loved ones and their supporters. About 20 people were outside waiting when the doors of City Hall opened at 6 a.m., according to Michael Gleason, one of Saturday’s volunteer notaries.

Things were quieter in nearby Brewer, where one couple obtained a marriage license for a wedding that will take place later this year, said Brewer City Clerk Pam Ryan.

Among those on hand for the occasion was former City Councilor Gerry Palmer, who brought his granddaughter, Brenna Small-Clark, along to witness history in the making — as well as 20 long stemmed red roses to hand out to those who came to City Hall to obtain marriage licenses.

“Bangor is a loving community and even more so today,” Palmer said. “I’m reminded of that old ‘Casablanca’ song, [‘As Time Goes By, which includes the phrase] ‘The world will always welcome lovers.’”

Bangor City Councilor Joseph Baldacci, a local attorney and notary, brought his daughters, Olivia and Caroline, because they wanted to witness the occasion first hand. City Councilor Charles Longo also showed up to congratulate the couples.

On hand for the event were several members of EqualityMaine.

“We’re here to support all our friends who we helped throughout the campaign season,”
said member Matt Marko of Bangor.

“We’re making it real,” added Makayla Reed of Belfast.

Baldacci, a local attorney and notary, presided over the Tidd-Fitzpatrick wedding, which was the first of its kind to be performed in Bangor.

As the wedding began, Bangor High School senior Monica Wilbur sang an acapella version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” an unofficial theme song of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. The rainbow flag is the symbol for gay pride.

Tidd and Beckett, who wore matching plaid shirts and jeans and miniature ruby red slippers pins, have been together for 21 years. Beckett’s daughter, Catherine Beckett, flew in from New Orleans so that she could serve as wedding photographer and ring bearer.

After the traditional exchange of vows and wedding rings, Baldacci told the couple: “May you love, honor and respect each other, keeping the vows made between you. Live together in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and happiness. That your home may be a haven for peace. … By the power conferred upon me by the state of Maine, I now pronounce you legally married,” setting off a rowdy round of clapping and cheering.

After their wedding, they planned to head north to Aroostook County to share the news while celebrating a belated Christmas with Tidd’s family.

The couple had no immediate plans for a honeymoon.

“We’ve been celebrating for 21 years. We’ve been on a honeymoon for a very long time,” Beckett said with a laugh.

“It does seem a little awkward that after a 21-year relationship that you should celebrate it, but it’s beautiful, it’s wonderful. This was a day. Now life goes on,” he said. “The best day to get married is any time.”

For same-sex couples and their loved ones, the legalization of same-sex marriage was a long time in the making.

“It’s fantastic and about time,” said Bagg’s mother, Kathy Mackie of Bangor. “If I had two broken legs and a cast, I’d be here. We’ve waited for this for 13 years.”

“Yay! We’ve been together for 12, 13 years. It’s nice to make it official,” Bagg said.

“It’s about time,” added Rogers. “Just like everybody else, I want to get on with my life. Be with the person I love. It’s been 13 years we’ve been waiting.”

Notary Karen Foley, who presided over their wedding, wore a rainbow scarf that she bought for the occasion.

“I’m a longtime ally,” Foley said when asked what prompted her to volunteer her services Saturday. “I’ve worked for a lot of years for gay rights in the community and this is kind of the culmination and celebration now.”

After the exchange of vows, it was time to exchange rings.

“The wedding ring, which has no beginning and no ending, symbolizes the unending love that you’ve promised,” Foley said, asking each of the women to repeat words spoken at weddings for hundreds of years: “With this ring I thee wed.”

“Margaret and Hope, by the power granted to me by the people of Maine, I now pronounce you wife and wife,” the notary concluded.

Though most of the couples who received licenses Saturday morning were from Bangor, Smith and Fitzpatrick , who have been together for nearly 17 years, flew in from Los Angeles to get theirs. They are planning a small New Year’s Day wedding, likely in a park in Orono.

“When the vote cleared on Election Day, that made the rest of our holidays easy to plan,” said Smith, whose family in Bangor were still asleep when city hall opened.

Added Fitzpatrick: “It gives us a modicum of legal rights after 17 years, although not federal rights yet so we’re hoping that’s the next step. It means that some government acknowledged the fact that we’re a couple.”

In South Portland, Robin Elliott and Laura Minervino, who’ve been a couple for 23 years and plan to wed at the Victorian Mansion on Jan. 6, were first to obtain a license.

At least four couples were married Saturday morning at city hall, where City Clerk Sue Mooney provided each couple a small wedding cake. One of those couples has been together for 17 years and have three children.

In Brunswick, seven couples showed up to obtain licenses. Margaret O’Connell and Katherine Wilder and a couple who declined to be identified were married on the spot. Town Council Chairman Ben Tucker officiated.

Later in the day in Orono, Sue Estler and Paula Johnson, a couple for 24 years, were married during a small ceremony at their home. Estler said the two planned to hold a larger wedding later this year.

Though the Orono Town Office was not open on Saturday, the couple was able to obtain a marriage license from Town Manager Sophie Wilson.

Reporters Dylan Martin and David Harry of The Forecaster contributed to this report