Wearing sparkling gold pendants and white polo shirts, clutching flowers and at times each other, the two men explained how their decision to join today’s mass wedding at Druid Hill Park was intuitive and personal.
“We’ve been together for seven years and we realized, it’s just time,” Kevin Gabel-Cimino said, smiling at Joel Gabel-Cimino, as they waited to exchange vows.
But something more, they said, compelled them to get married, joining 18 other same-sex couples, in a public ceremony officiated by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – something political.
“The idea that we could do it legally now in Maryland, that we could do it in public with other people – when we heard about this, it was like ‘Oh no, we just have to do it,” Kevin said.
Joel explained that the two of them took part in canvassing in their Overlea neighborhood when Maryland’s landmark gay marriage legislation came before voters in the November election.
“We just wanted to be part of history,” said another of the couple’s, Lisa Tilton and Maria Valentine, in between photo ops with multiple family members before the ceremony began. “And we really like Stephanie Rawlings-Blake!”
“We were going to get married at our ten-year anniversary and it’s two years away but this came up and we just had to do it,” said Tilton, explaining some of the couple’s other plans, including opening up a pizza and sub shop together in Essex.
Results of Our Hard Work
As the time drew near for the 2:30 ceremony, and the mayor appeared to be delayed, speakers whooped up the crowd and led them at one point in a group rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”
“We worked so hard on the legislation in Annapolis and then the fight at the ballot box, and now to see the results of our hard work with this happy day,” said Del. Mary Washington, one of the leaders of the marriage equality fight, speaking with The Brew before the nuptials began. Many eyes on the stage and in the audience welled with tears.
Years of legislative battles, debate and often ugly words uttered online, on talk radio and in Annapolis hearing rooms were now in the past for this crowd, which was focused instead on celebrating love and commitment. (And, for some, wedding planning. There were vendors selling rings, wedding cruises, wedding cakes and more at this Pride Festival, part of the annual Baltimore Pride Celebration.)
Finally, Mother Meredith Moise announced the arrival of Her Honor (“Is that a black SUV I see?”) and soon the mayor, in a formal (and perhaps vaguely clerical) black dress and with a proclamation in hand, took to the stage.
As the couples, in kilts, white tuxes and fancy wedding dresses or simply-matching casual clothes, stood on a stage below her, Rawlings-Blake read from her piece of paper, proclaiming June 16:
“We Do, Baltimore Day in celebration of marriage equality in Baltimore and in the State of Maryland. Whereas Marylanders made history in November 2012 as they voted to make same sex marriage legal, recognizing that all families are equal before the eyes of the law. . .”
She went on but pretty soon got to the “do you take your partner to be your wedded husband or wife?” part and the “in sickness and in health” and all those other sobering clauses that make couples look into each others’ eyes.
And they kissed and laughed and cried and the crowd whooped and cheered. Afterwards they ate from a stack of rainbow colored cupcakes and, in a light rain, headed home.