2013-01-04 / Front Page

First ladies

Gay couples make it official in South Portland
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Robin Elliott, left, and Laura Minervino sign the paperwork to make their marriage official on Saturday, Dec. 29 in South Portland. Elliott and Minervino have been together 23 years, and were waiting at 8 a.m. when city hall opened its doors on the first day same-sex marriage licenses could be issued in Maine. (Jack Flagler photo) Robin Elliott, left, and Laura Minervino sign the paperwork to make their marriage official on Saturday, Dec. 29 in South Portland. Elliott and Minervino have been together 23 years, and were waiting at 8 a.m. when city hall opened its doors on the first day same-sex marriage licenses could be issued in Maine. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND – Robin Elliott and Laura Minervino stepped out of their car on a chilly winter morning, Saturday, Dec. 29, and made history in South Portland.

Elliott and Minervino became the first same-sex couple to receive their marriage license in South Portland when they signed the paperwork just after 8 a.m. The city clerk’s office chose to open Saturday morning to accommodate the couples who wanted to make their marriage official on the first day same-sex licenses could be issued in Maine.

Elliott said she and Minervino didn’t necessarily set out with the goal to be the first couple to receive a license in South Portland, but they were just excited to finally make their marriage official after 23 years together.


From left, Rob Schreiber, Nick Merriam and Emmett Harrity of jazz band Standard Issue play standards from “The Great American Songbook” in Portland City Hall late Friday night, Dec. 28 for couples waiting to be wed when the clock struck midnight. Schreiber, a South Portland resident, said the historic night deserved “some good music in the background.” (Jack Flagler photo) From left, Rob Schreiber, Nick Merriam and Emmett Harrity of jazz band Standard Issue play standards from “The Great American Songbook” in Portland City Hall late Friday night, Dec. 28 for couples waiting to be wed when the clock struck midnight. Schreiber, a South Portland resident, said the historic night deserved “some good music in the background.” (Jack Flagler photo) “We’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Elliott said.

She added that gay couples often get “lost in history” when researching family history, and she was excited not only to be equally recognized, but also to legally become an aunt to her nieces.

Elliott and Minervino will hold their wedding on Sunday, Jan. 6 at Victoria Mansion for about 30 friends and family members. The two had talked generally about a wedding throughout their relationship, but Minervino said “We didn’t start planning until after the vote.”

Elliott said she specifically avoided making any plans until after Election Day to avoid getting her hopes too high and setting herself up for disappointment if the ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriages failed.

Voters in South Portland supported legalizing same-sex marriages by a more than 2-to-1 ratio, with 9,771 votes cast as a “yes” on Question 1 against 4,446 “no” votes. But the decision was not as decisive statewide. The measure passed with 53 percent of Maine voters approving, and the decision was up in the air until late Tuesday night, Nov. 6.

“I said, ‘I can’t think about it. I’m too scared,” Elliott said of her response when Minervino brought up plans before election night.

After the paperwork was finished, Minervino and Elliott stayed in city hall to celebrate with the other couples who had come to receive marriage licenses. They even attended the ceremony for the first couple to be married in the city, Jessie Cash and Cynthia Sortwell, who requested no reporters observe their ceremony in city council chambers.

Nine couples received licenses altogether on Saturday, three of which also had a marriage ceremony. Eight of those nine were same-sex couples.

At its busiest, about a dozen people, including family and friends, filled the lobby of city hall. But the atmosphere was quite different from the raucous night in the neighboring city of Portland the previous evening.

Hundreds of people lined the sidewalks outside Portland City Hall to celebrate the same-sex couples who received their licenses starting at midnight Saturday morning. When Michael Snell and Steven Bridges, the first gay couple married in Portland, stepped out of the building, they were greeted with loud cheers, flowers and showers of rice as they made their way past the crowd.

Rob Schreiber of South Portland, a jazz drummer with the band Standard Issue, provided music for the scene. Schreiber, pianist Emmett Harrity and bassist Nick Merriam played standards from the “Great American Songbook.” The band played “What a Difference a Day Makes” under city hall’s winding staircase in the front lobby to welcome couples in when the building opened at 10 p.m.

Schreiber said the band volunteered to play on the historic night free of charge. He originally sent a Facebook message to Portland Mayor Michael Brennan to ask whether the ceremonies would need some backing music. When that went unanswered, he put a call in to the city a few days before the event. Originally, a choir was scheduled to perform. When it dropped out, Schreiber’s band stepped in.

“This is a first. There should be some good music in the background,” Schreiber said.

There was no music, nor were there any other couples, in city hall when Stan Hackett and Howard Little became the first men to be married in South Portland around 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

The couple came with a few family members and their two dogs for a ceremony Little called “unofficial but official.” They will exchange vows and rings in spring at a larger wedding, but Little and Hackett wanted to make their relationship a legal marriage Saturday.

“It’s been a long, long wait,” Hackett said.

He has known Little for 10 years, and the two have been together for four.

Little said the disappointment of the 2009 people’s veto that made same-sex marriages illegal made the moment even more special.

“I was surprised that last time it didn’t pass,” Little said. “It just put a smile on our face, knowing we’re going to be treated the same as everyone else.”

“It’s time,” he added, “We’ve been waiting a long time and finally it’s here.”

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