ANNAPOLIS — Elated same-sex couples began getting marriage licenses in Maryland on Thursday, though they won’t go into effect until Jan. 1.
Kim Hinken was the first person to get a marriage license in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The 52-year-old Edgewater resident said she has waited nearly 10 years to become legally married to Adrianne Eathorne.
“I never thought that this would happen,” Hinken said. “I really imagined my life as being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day come about and to be a part of it, it means everything to me. It means that finally I can say that I live with my wife and that I’m married. It makes me feel really a part of society.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, earlier in the day signed a proclamation affirming that Maryland voters approved same-sex marriage in a ballot question last month. The formal proclamation enabled couples to get marriage licenses ahead of the Jan. 1 effective date.
O’Malley signed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in March, but opponents gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Voters approved the ballot question last month with 52 percent of the vote.
Scott Bowling, a 41-year-old Annapolis resident, got a license to marry his partner right after Hinken. He thanked O’Malley and lawmakers who fought to get the measure through.
“It’s just heart-warming that we stand here today in this chapel where one year ago we would not have been welcomed,” Bowling said in an interview in the courthouse chapel.
Heather Ware and Tiffany DeVore were the first to get a marriage license in Allegany County in western Maryland.
“This is more exciting than Christmas,” Ware, who lives in Short Gap, W.Va., where same-sex marriage is not allowed, said in a telephone interview. “It’s kind of like going Black Friday shopping. We want to be the first.”
Last week, Attorney General Doug Gansler issued a legal opinion that clarified when licenses could be obtained. Couples have expressed interest in getting them in advance of the Jan. 1 effective date, in order to plan New Year’s Eve weddings.
Couples who get a license far enough in advance will satisfy the state’s 48-hour waiting period requirement, so that they can be married at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1.
Gansler wrote that same-sex couples who have already been married in another state cannot get a license to marry in Maryland, as long as the out-of-state marriage remains intact. Couples who have a civil union from another state can still get married in Maryland.
Same-sex couples also obtained marriage licenses in Washington state early Thursday, hours after Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a voter-approved law legalizing gay marriage in that state. The state has a three-day waiting period, so weddings can’t take place until Sunday. In Maine, where voters also approved same-sex marriage last month, the law takes effect on Dec. 29. There is no waiting period in Maine, and people can start marrying just after midnight.