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Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies Begin In Maryland

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Maryland couples make history this New Year's Day by getting married.

It's the first day same-sex couples can legally marry in the state after November's voter referendum approved the measure.

Meghan McCorkell has more on some of the first ceremonies.

At 12:30 a.m., the first hour that it was legal, seven same-sex couples got married at City Hall and they were not alone.

On the banks of the Chesapeake Bay and inside churches, same-sex couples across Maryland said "I do."

"I never thought this would be possible, not in my lifetime would I ever think that this would be possible," said groom Jim Scales.

Scales married Bill Tasker after spending 35 years together.

"We've had sad times, good times, bad times, happy times, and this year culminates everything into one and now let's see what the future holds for us," said Scales.

"Jim and I recognize that it's not only a big step for us, but it's also a big step for the gay community," said Tasker.

"At one time we never thought we would see this day and now that we're actually standing here in City Hall. It's a wonderful feeling, overwhelming, a very wonderful feeling," said one couple.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake performed one of the first ceremonies.

"This morning, there's so many people who have a chance now to have the life that they've wanted for themselves and for their family," said Rawlings-Blake. "It's a very emotional night, incredibly meaningful night. I'm so proud of Maryland, that we chose equality over hate."

"We appreciate the citizens of Maryland being able to allow us this moment, being able to get married. I think that at one time, we never believed we would see this day," said bride Lisa Walther.

"It's the best day of our lives. We finally get to be a part of marriage," said April Loomis.

On Tilghman Island, the Black Walnut Point Inn hosted seven weddings for same-sex couples, including U.S. Navy Officer Dwayne Beebe and his new husband.

"Being able to do this openly without 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and now being able to be legally married, it's wonderful," said Beebe.

The state law protects clergy from being forced to perform a ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs, but Archbishop Joseph Steward said his church, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, is open.

"I don't look at it as a religious issue at all. I look at it more as a civil rights issue," said Archbishop Steward. "Jesus loves everyone and I think He would be here celebrating with us if He were walking the earth today."

Maryland was one of three states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012.

In Maine, same-sex weddings started this weekend. Ceremonies began in Washington state last month.

Here in Maryland, even more couples are expected to tie the knot Wednesday as courthouses open their doors.

The Westboro Baptist Church, an opponent of same-sex marriage, has filed permits to protest in front of several Maryland courthouses. A local Episcopal church plans to counter-protest.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have now approved same-sex marriage.

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