New Year Brings Same-Sex Marriage To Maryland
New Year’s Day brought same-sex marriage to another state:
In the 17 years since Katie Cleary and Sharon Dongarra locked eyes in the kitchen of an Arby’s restaurant, they have shared a first, tentative kiss, traded letters across continents, set up a home, exchanged vows before family and friends, signed a host of legal documents and nurtured a young daughter.
The couple has shared nearly every experience that can bond two people, except for one. Until today.
But just after midnight, the two women pledged themselves to each other yet again in their Towson home, becoming one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married in Maryland.
After 17 years, we might as well do it the very moment we can,” said Sharon Dongarra, 37, a chiropractor.
New Year’s Day marks the culmination of years of work by gay and lesbian Marylanders and their allies to persuade state legislators, and later voters, to support full marriage rights for same-sex couples. The General Assembly approved same-sex marriage in 2012, only to have opponents petition it onto the ballot in the November election.
The Dongarras — Katie legally changed her last name to Sharon’s a couple years ago — were exuberant when Maryland, along with Maine and Washington, became the first states in which voters approved extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.
The next day, Sharon Dongarra recalled, she got teary-eyed watching Katie help their daughter, Lucy, into the car. “I remember thinking, ‘She will not remember a time when her moms were considered second-class citizens in Maryland,’ ” she said.
The couple was one of dozens planning a New Year’s Day wedding ceremony. Partners of 29 years exchanged vows on the roof of their Harborview home as fireworks rocketed over the Inner Harbor. The doors of Baltimore’s City Hall opened just after midnight to host the weddings of seven couples. And an Eastern Shore inn was preparing to host 50 weddings throughout the day — including one for the inn’s owners.
2012 was a banner year for same-sex marriage. Although North Carolina joined many other stats in adopting a Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in April, that was soon followed by the President publicly endorsing same-sex marriage for the first time. There were significant Court victories in the battle against the Defense of Marriage Act, and then, on Election Day, three states legalized same-sex marriage and a fourth state rejected a ban on same-sex marriage, the first time such a measure had been defeated at the ballot box. 2013 promises to be even more auspicious. Several state legislatures are planing on moving on the issue, and, of course, the Supreme Court will be ruling on both DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 by the end of June. It could be an historic year.