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Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:26AM - 256 Views

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TILGHMAN ISLAND, Md. — Same-sex couples in Maryland were greeted with cheers and noisemakers held over from New Year's Eve parties, as gay marriage became legal in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line on New Year's Day.


James Scales, 68, was married to William Tasker, 60, on Tuesday shortly after midnight by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake inside City Hall.


It's just so hard to believe it's happening, Scales said shortly before marrying his partner of 35 years.


Six other same-sex couples also were being married at City Hall. Ceremonies were taking place in other parts of the state as well.


The ceremonies follow a legislative fight that pitted Gov. Martin O'Malley against leaders of his Catholic faith. Voters in the state, founded by Catholics in the 17th century, sealed the change by approving a November ballot question.


There is no human institution more sacred than that of the one that you are about to form, Rawlings-Blake said during the brief ceremony. True marriage, true marriage, is the dearest of all earthly relationships.


Same-sex couples in Maryland have been able to get marriage licenses since Dec. 6, but they did not take effect until Tuesday.


In 2011, same-sex marriage legislation passed in the state Senate but stalled in the House of Delegates. O'Malley hadn't made the issue a key part of his 2011 legislative agenda, but indicated that summer that he was considering backing a measure similar to New York's law, which includes exemptions for religious organizations.


Shortly after, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore wrote to O'Malley that same-sex marriage went against the governor's faith.


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