TILGHMAN ISLAND, Md. -- Same-sex couples in Maryland were greeted with cheers and noisemakers held over from New Year's Eve parties, as gay marriage became legal in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line on New Year's Day.
James Scales, 68, was married to William Tasker, 60, yesterday shortly after midnight by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
"It's just so hard to believe it's happening," Scales said inside City Hall shortly before marrying his partner of 35 years.
Six other same-sex couples also were being married at City Hall. Ceremonies were taking place in other parts of the state, as well.
"There is no human institution more sacred than that of the one that you are about to form," Rawlings-Blake said during the brief ceremony. "True marriage, true marriage, is the dearest of all earthly relationships."
Brigitte Ronnett, who also was married, said she hopes one day to see full federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington state were the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, in November, a development Ronnett said was significant.
"I think it's a great sign when you see that popular opinion is now in favor of this," said Ronnett, 51, who married Lisa Walther, 51, at City Hall.
In 2011, same-sex marriage legislation passed in the state Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates. Gov. Martin O'Malley hadn't made the issue a key part of his 2011 legislative agenda, but indicated that summer that he was considering backing a measure similar to New York's law, which includes exemptions for religious organizations.
Shortly after, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore wrote to O'Malley that same-sex marriage went against the governor's faith.
The governor was not persuaded. He held a news conference in July 2011 to announce that he would make same-sex marriage a priority in the 2012 legislative session.