Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
TILGHMAN, Md.—A gay-owned Eastern Shore inn on Tuesday hosted more than half a dozen same-sex weddings on the first day gays and lesbians could legally marry in Maryland.
Tracy Staples, owner of the Black Walnut Point Inn on Tilghman Island in Talbot County who married his partner, Bob Zuber, shortly after the law took effect at midnight, officiated the wedding of Baltimore residents Clayton Zook and Wayne MacKenzie shortly after 12:30 p.m. in a gazebo overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.
The couple met more than six years ago while working at a Huntsville, Ala., television station. Zook, 28, joked with reporters after he and MacKenzie, 30, exchanged vows that their decision to get married at the inn was “kind of a last minute decision.”
“We thought it would be great to be a part of the first day that it’s legal in Maryland,” Zook said. “It’s an easy day to remember for an anniversary. As far as all the legal ramifications and everything goes, it’s great for us to say state of Maryland we thank you for giving us these rights for giving us equal rights and we want to show you that we do appreciate that and so getting married on the first day shows the people of Maryland that there are same-sex couples that are interested in matrimony.”
Kevin and Joey Lowery of Glen Burnie also married at the inn—Joey Lowery, who is deaf, spoke his vows to his soon-to-be-spouse after he interpreted them to him.
Michelle Miller and Nora Clouse of Stevensville in Queen Anne’s County have been together for 15 years. The couple had a commitment ceremony 10 years ago, and Miller conceded she thought “that was going to be it.”
“I’m very proud of Maryland, especially since the popular vote and the people had to decide on this issue,” she told the Washington Blade after she and Clouse exchanged vows.
Maryland is among nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Staples and Zuber are among the more than a dozen gays and lesbians who tied the knot immediately after the Maryland’s same-sex marriage law took effect at midnight—seven couples exchanged vows at Baltimore City Hall earlier today as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, lesbian state Del. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans watched.
Ruth Siegel of Silver Spring married her partner of 15 years, Nina Nethery, inside Black Walnut Point Inn just after midnight. The couple, along with Staples and Zuber and Dwayne Beebe and Jonathan Franqui of Pensacola, Fla., who also tied the knot immediately after the same-sex marriage law took effect, shared a champagne toast and a rainbow wedding cake after they exchanged vows.
“I just couldn’t stop crying and everybody else couldn’t stop crying,” Siegel told the Blade after she and her spouse watched Zook and MacKenzie tie the knot. “We had a nice little crowd of people that we didn’t know. And everybody got really close really fast. It was incredible.”
Beebe, who has been in the U.S. Navy for 19 years, proposed to Franqui, 28, in uniform while marching in last July’s annual San Diego Pride parade.
Florida does not recognize same-sex marriages, but Beebe told the Blade during a post-wedding interview at the Tilghman Island Inn that he and Franqui considered exchanging vows while they were taking care of his mother who continues to fight cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in D.C.
“When we decided to make it legal, we were kind of figuring the options of so are we going to go to New York, are we going to go to Iowa or wherever,” Beebe said. “After the election, in Maryland it was going to be legal on [Jan.] 1 so we decided to come here, visit Mom while she’s undergoing treatment for cancer and also get our marriage license and then it sort of just all evolved into let’s do it on New Year’s night.”
Beebe attended the other same-sex weddings that took place later on Tuesday at the Black Walnut Point Inn while wearing his Navy uniform.
“It’s amazing to be able to wear my uniform and be openly gay,” he said. “There’s really not emotions or words to describe to live almost 19 years under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and then to be lifted and then to be actually legally married in the state to somebody that you love and you are in love with and that you want to spend the rest of your life with and that you can’t be fired for it, they can’t do anything to you, you’re just living your life the way you’re supposed to. It’s amazing. And to be able to wear my uniform is that much better.”
Michelle Miller and Nora Clouse (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.)