Dozens of gay couples exchanged wedding vows or obtained marriage licenses early Saturday after Maine's same-sex marriage law went into effect at midnight.
At least 44 couples obtained marriage licenses in about 10 communities from Portland to Bangor, where clerks' offices opened at midnight, and a dozen couples were married almost immediately in city or town halls, according to Portland Press Herald.
Two Christians protested outside Portland City Hall by singing religious songs. "This is wickedness. They are bringing judgment upon Maine and the nation," one of the protesters, who identified himself as a local resident and a street preacher, was quoted as saying.
"I'm here to speak for the Lord and to warn they need to repent," he said. "They should turn from their ways. Even though man passed a law, doesn't mean God does."
Same-sex couples and supporters, meanwhile, were thrilled.
"We finally feel equal and happy to be living in Maine," Reuters quoted Steven Bridges, 42, as saying shortly after he exchanged vows with Michael Snell, 53, to become the first couple at City Hall. Snell's two adult daughters, both from a previous heterosexual marriage, were also present.
"We've been together for 30 years and never thought that this country would allow marriages between gay couples," Roberta Batt, 71, an antiques dealer and retired physician, was quoted as saying as she and her longtime partner, Mary, waited their turn to wed. "We're just very thankful to the people of Maine, and I hope the rest of the country goes the way this state has."
Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage, who is a Republican, signed off on the certified election results on Nov. 29, and the law came into effect 30 days later. In 2009, the Maine Legislature passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage, but voters overturned it later that year in a people's veto referendum.
President Barack Obama had endorsed same-sex marriage before the voting last month that made Maine one of the three states along with Washington and Maryland to approve gay marriage – the first states in the country to do so by popular vote.
Chip White of Preserve Marriage Washington, which opposes the gay-marriage law, had earlier said he was not surprised by Obama's action. "Until May of this year, the president's position was that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," he said. "No one called him a bigot or said he was unfair for holding that position. And Washingtonians who believe in the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman are not bigots."
Same-sex marriage is now legal in nine U.S. states – including Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont – and Washington, D.C.
Maryland's law takes effect on Tuesday.
Months before the last month's voting in the three states, when supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage were raising money to ensure victory of defeat of the measures, Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Wash., told The Christian Post that no amount of money could overcome what is right in God's eyes.
"I laugh when people talk about how much money they've raised to promote a sinful lifestyle," Hutcherson said. "God is not concerned about money and if we can successfully mobilize the Christians in our state who believe that marriage should be between a man and a women, then we will succeed… The fight to protect marriage is not about money, it's about motivating Christians to get out and vote."
A Pew Research Center nationwide survey from October found 49 percent in favor of allowing gay marriage, and 40 percent opposed to it.