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Same-sex Maryland couples ring in New Year with wedding bells

 
By CNN Staff

(CNN) — Jim Scales and William Tasker have been a couple for 35 years, but only on Tuesday were they able to legally marry, thanks to Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law, which went into effect with the new year.

Maryland was among three states this past November where voters approved laws allowing same-sex marriages.

At Baltimore City Hall, a celebration erupted with the first official marriage ceremonies just after midnight, similar to celebrations when laws went into effect in Washington and Maine in December.

Scales and Tasker made up the first couple in Baltimore to marry under the new law.

“Jim and I met in 1977 and at that time I just didn’t really believe that gay people would ever see the day when they could marry,” Tasker told CNN affiliate WBAL.

Scales agreed: “This is as happy as I’ve ever been, to be able to spend the rest of my life with Bill — legally — and to show the rest of the gay community that this can be done.”

Seven couples exchanged vows in Baltimore in the first hours of the new year.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake opened City Hall for the couples, and officiated the ceremonies herself.

“It’s a very emotional night, an incredibly meaningful night,” she said. “There’s so many people who have a chance now to have the life they have wanted for themselves and for their family, and I’m so proud of Maryland, that we chose equality over hate.”

Same-sex marriage rights have been denied in many states in the past, but last month, voters in Maine, Washington and Maryland decided to go the other way.

Newly married same-sex couples in these three states have expressed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will issue rulings favorable to their marriages.

Last month, the justices said they would hear two constitutional challenges to state and federal laws connected to legal marriages for gay and lesbian couples.

Oral arguments will probably be held in March, with a ruling by late June.

One of the appeals involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own states.

The second is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure that took away a right of same-sex marriage that had been approved by the state’s courts.

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