Same-sex marriage supporters embrace as Question 1 wins voter approval in Maine.
The excitement in the ballroom was building cautiously all night. Just before midnight, it exploded, when Matt McTighe, the campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, took the stage. But he couldn't even get through the first sentence before supporters broke into deafening cheers and applause.
"For the first time, we've won marriage right here in Maine," he said. "We've done it at the ballot box, and I could not be prouder that we've done it right here in Maine."
It had been a long road for gay marriage supporters, who had their hopes dashed in 2009. Then, Maine became the first state in the country to approve gay marriage through a vote of the Legislature, but that law was repealed by voters later that year.
Ever since, gay marriage supporters have been working to change minds. This year - for the first time ever - supporters of gay marriage were the ones who put an initiative on the ballot, asking voters whether the state should grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
By voting 'yes' on Question 1, Maine became the first state to legalize gay marriage through a popular vote. Later in the night, Maryland followed suit. It was a piece of history that was not lost in McTighe's (right at podium) speech.
"Now there's a change that's happening in this country. And today we saw that change reflected here in Maine," he said. "And we're keeping our fingers crossed that the other three states that have marriage on the ballot this year are going to join us in this milestone tonight. We're hearing some good things, too. But regardless of what happens anywhere else, the voters of Maine have spoken."
That was something that opponents of gay marriage were not ready to concede late last night, with results still trickling in.
"We really feel as long as there is even a slight hope it is not appropriate for us to concede," said Carroll Conley, a co-chair of Protect Marriage Maine. He said the coalition had not yet discussed what they might do in the case of a defeat.
"Whatever the decision is, the people have decided. We are not the only ones that decide if whether there is going to be a citizen initiative or not," he said. "I can say right now that I am thankful this campaign is over."
Back in Portland, supporters (above right) were also thankful for a successful end to a long and hard-fought campaign. For Robin Wright and Allegra Hirsh, who got "illegally wed" a little over a year ago, it was personal.
It's unbelievable," Wright said. "It's such a wonderful feeling to think that the folks in this state can see that we're just another family like their family."
"It means that I can walk around tomorrow knowing that the majority of people in this state believe in my marriage as much as I believe in theirs," said Hirsh.
Wright and Hirsh have already had their ceremony, but they do plan to get legally wed in Maine when the law goes into effect. While that date was not yet set as of last night, this much is clear: Sometime in the next two months, gay and lesbian couples will be able to get marriage licenses in the state of Maine.
Photos by Samantha Fields.