Over 16 percent of the weddings held in Maine in 2013 were those of same-sex couples.
According to the Maine Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, 1,530 same-sex “marriages” were performed in the state since such weddings were made legal at the end of December 2012, with lesbians making the big commitment more often than gay men, as shown by a tally of 970 to 560.
According to the Bangor Daily News, a spokesman for EqualityMaine, which helped to lead the effort for same-sex marriage in the state, said he believes the number of married same-sex couples in Maine may actually be higher than 1,530 since the state’s data do not take into account same-sex couples who were married in other states or Canada and have settled in Maine.
“Some folks say that doesn’t seem like that many,” said Ian Grady. “I would guess that all told, there are thousands of married couples in Maine.”
One lesbian couple, Bev and Sue Uhlenhake of Brewer, Maine, were one of the 1,530 same-sex couples married in the state since gay and lesbian couples were permitted to legally wed.
Bev Uhlenhake said she and Sue, who were originally “married” in the Dominican Republic, attended about six same-sex marriages in Maine in 2013. She reported that Facebook pages of newly married same-sex couples were appearing every Monday.
“A lot of these people were together for many years before they finally got married, so they went very small,” Uhlenhake said. “It’s celebratory, yet at the same time it feels weird to celebrate something that should have been allowed a long time ago.”
Uhlenhake said she thought there were more than 1,530 same-sex marriages in Maine in 2013.
“Proportionally, it seems low,” she said. “I would have expected a higher ratio, but that’s 1,500 families that are more protected than they were before.”
Rev. Becky Gunn, a Unitarian minister in Bangor, said she had decided that she would not marry anyone until she could marry all couples.
“My belief is that marriage is a commitment between two individuals who love each other,” Gunn said. “The law as it was then defined [before the referendum] diminished the love between two same-sex partners and I just felt that was wrong… We fought long and hard to get this passed and I see only positive things coming from it.”
Nevertheless, some are concerned that their religious liberty will not be protected under the new same-sex marriage legislation.
State Sen. David Burns (R) has initiated LD 1428, An Act to Protect Religious Freedom, a bill which aims to permit individuals to exercise their religious freedoms, including choosing to refrain from involvement in same-sex weddings. The bill, which will be considered in the legislative session that begins next week, states that a government agency is prohibited from infringing on religious rights and, in situations in which it cannot be avoided, the government must proceed in the “least restrictive means possible,” says Burns.
“It’s an effort to enshrine what I feel the Maine and federal constitutions provide for,” he added. “I went to great length to try to take out the stuff [from the bill] that people find objectionable and controversial.”
The number of gays and lesbians in the United States has been estimated as less than two percent of the population, or about four million adults, by Gary Gates, demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, a think tank based at the University of California in Los Angeles.