Baltimore, Maryland -- Just after the stroke of midnight, as revelers around the country were ushering in the new year, LGBT couples in Maryland celebrated by getting married.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector described the exciting scene at Baltimore’s City Hall.
Shortly after 12:30 a.m. New Year's Day, not long after fireworks had erupted at the Inner Harbor, James Scales and William Tasker kissed in the ceremonial room of Baltimore City Hall — sealing their new marriage as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who'd just officiated the ceremony, looked on.
Then Scales, a manager in the mayor's office since William Donald Schaefer was in charge, threw up his right hand, Tasker beamed, and the room erupted in cheers.
"It just means a lot to be able to spend the rest of our lives together, and legally," Scales, 68, said of his marriage to Tasker, 60, his partner of 35 years.
Across the building, six other same-sex couples prepared to take their own vows. Various judges were on hand to officiate for them, and others who had fought to legalize same-sex marriage in the state this year — including Del. Mary Washington — were also on hand.
"It's about so much more than us," said Darcia Anthony, 32, in a bright white gown, as her partner, Dani Williams, 32, stood next to her in a bright white tuxedo. "It's about our friends, just the people who have been there for us through the good and the bad. It's about celebrating our love."The very next day members of the reviled hate group, the Westboro Baptist Church, made an appearance in Maryland, and staged protests in the capital city of Annapolis, as well as Towson. Erin Cox and Alison Knezevich, writing for the Baltimore Sun, recounted the local response to the hate group’s presence.
"When people came to our city to preach hate, we stood up to them," Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen said after the protest ended. "It was a beautiful scene."
Wednesday marked the first day the courthouse was open for business after Maryland's same-sex marriage law took effect on Jan. 1. Westboro Baptist, known for picketing military funerals around the nation, staged a second protest in front of the Baltimore County Circuit Courthouse in Towson later in the morning.
In Towson, counter-protesters held signs with messages including "All Love is Beautiful" and "Marriage is About Love not Gender" — contrasting Westboro Baptist members' signs declaring "Same-sex marriage dooms nations."
On its website, Westboro Baptist Church stated it was picketing in Maryland because "they became the first state to vote in Same-Sex Marriage."
"Westboro brings these words of warning, knowing they may be the last that you get," the group wrote. "Your duty is to fear and obey God, and do it like you mean it, with joy and gladness."Will Illinois be the next state where marriage equality will be extended to the state’s residents? Or will it be a different state in our union?
Congratulations to all of the engaged and newly married LGBT couples in Maryland!
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