On November 6, 2012, Maine became the first state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage by referendum. That night was (rightly so) a night of celebration. Couples wept and danced, engagements were announced, and wedding plans commenced. As the initial shock and joy wears down, however, and those wedding plans start to really move forward, there are a few things that should be considered by couples as they prepare for their new, legally married, lives together.

The impact of this law.

Congratulations, Maine same-sex couples – you can get married once this law goes into effect! By approving Question One, the voters of our state determined that it is time for Maine to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, something previously barred by our State version of the Defense of Marriage Act. As soon as the law goes into effect, couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses at their town office and can get married that same day. There is no waiting period after the license is issued; however, the license is only valid for 90 days after it is issued, and both spouses must be present at the time they apply for the license. You can check the Maine State website for the full requirements for obtaining a marriage license by following the link above; it is important to note that, if you or your spouse have previously been married or have entered a domestic partnership or civil union in Maine or in another state, you will have some other requirements. If you have any questions about the status of your previous marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, to any spouse, same- or opposite-sex, you should contact a lawyer for advice. We can help you sort through any paperwork you may have to determine your current marital status, and, if you need to file for divorce or to terminate your domestic partnership, can help you do so.

When will the new law go into effect?

The marriage law passed by a final tally of 57% “Yes” to 43% “No” votes, according to the unofficial election results posted on the Portland Press Herald website as of November 8, 2012. The state of Maine had not yet posted final, official election results on their website as of November 11, 2012; however, such results will be available at this page once finalized. Now that the election is over and the results are in, the Maine State Constitution requires that Governor LePage announce by public proclamation that this law has been ratified by a majority of the people who voted in this election. The Secretary of State has 20 days after the election to approve the election results. The Governor then has 10 days after the vote has been determined to make this proclamation. After the proclamation has been made, the law will go into effect after a 30-day waiting period. This means that the likely effective date for the new marriage law will be January 5, 2013. Couples wishing to marry sooner should continue to check the State website in the event the Secretary of State approves the results sooner than 20 days after the election, as this would expedite the process and their waiting time may be lessened.

UPDATE December 3, 2012:  The law will go into effect on December 29, 2012.