“Bride One,” read Siegel’s.
“Bride Two,” read Nethery’s.
The pair from Silver Spring were part of the first wave of weddings in Maryland after voters became among the first in the nation to endorse same-sex marriage on Nov. 6.
Until this year, voters around the country had rejected gay marriage more than 30 times. But Maryland joined Maine and Washington state in breaking that streak, reflecting a broader shift in public opinion. A majority of Americans now support the idea, up from a about third six years ago.
Same-sex marriages are now legal in nine states and D.C. But another 31 states have banned the practice through constitutional amendments. The debate is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which last month agreed to hear two cases on the issue.
In Maryland, many families ushered in the New Year — the day the law took effect — by gathering in diverse settings to celebrate their new civil right. A half-dozen weddings were held throughout the day at the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Among those joining Siegel and Nethery for weddings at the inn were the proprietors of the place. There were several others, including sign language interpreter Kevin Lowery, 51, of Glen Burnie, who translated the ceremony for his soon-to-be spouse, Joey Lowery, 48.
Clayton Zook, a Baltimore videographer, married Wayne MacKenzie, a meteorologist. The couple met at TV station in Huntsville and have been together for
6 1/2 years.
Siegel and Nethery, though, were among the first.
“Nina and Ruth, we have heard you promise to share your lives in marriage,” said Jen Russell, who struggled to officiate without choking up. “By the powers vested in me by the state of Maryland, I declare you legally married!”
In the hours that followed, the couple donned hand-decorated “Just Married” hats while they sliced an intricate rainbow-colored layer cake and sang softly to each other as they slow-danced to singer-songwriter Cris Williamson’s “Waterfall.”
In their 15 years together, Siegel and Nethery have had three previous commitment ceremonies. But this felt different.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it through that one,” said Siegel, 64.
“This is better than I even imagined it could be,” said Nethery, 59.
Both of them had earlier marriages, and they were hungry to have the depth of commitment that comes with that.
“When we have an argument, I always think about splitting up and leaving. But I’ve been married before and I remember this phenomenon. It changes your perception on how you work through problems, because running away is no longer an option,” Nethery said.