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Same-sex marriage ceremonies begin in Maryland

BY BRIAN WITTE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

BALTIMORE -- 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."

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