PORTLAND — Maggie Poisson held her and her wife Alissa Poisson’s 1-month-old baby in her arms stood before a jubilant crowd at Portland City Hall and said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act means the legally married couple will be able to raise their son with the same rights and protections other parents take for granted.

The South Portland couple and their baby, AJ, celebrated with a crowd of about 100 people at a rally at Portland City Hall on Wednesday night celebrating the court’s 5-4 decision which granted federal recognition of same-sex marriages now allowed in Maine and 11 other states.

“Knowing that we can care for one another and care for our son gives us a peace of mind we didn’t have before,” Maggie Poisson said.

Alissa Poisson, a Portland police officer, said the ruling provides a lot of protection under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if one of them has to leave work for a family emergency.

“If something happens to me, then she could take time off to take care of me,” said Alissa Poisson, who carried AJ after he was conceived through artificial insemination.

Wednesday was a historic day for gay rights as the nation’s high court issued two 5-4 decisions, one sweeping away part of the federal anti-gay marriage law and the other clearing a legal challenge for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The Defense of Marriage, commonly known as DOMA, has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits that are otherwise available to married couples.

Annie McPheeters and Meredith Johnson, a married couple who attended the City Hall rally with their baby boy, Calvin, said the decision also means living without the headache of having to file state taxes jointly but having to file federal taxes separately.

“Filing tax returns will be so much more simple. We actually had to hire an accountant for the first time ever this year because it was so complex,” Johnson said, holding Calvin in her arms.

McPheeters and Johnson, who also live in South Portland, said the court’s decision to overturn DOMA also provides and extra layer of security for their familt.

“I’m just so happy knowing it finally happened,” McPheeters said of court’s decision. “It’s also so great that this happened for Calvin. This will be just the way it is for him.”

On the other side, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which opposes same-sex marriage, said it was “truly a tragic day.”

Bishop Richard Malone issued a statement Wednesday calling it “truly a tragic day for marriage and for our nation.”

He called the ruling wrong, saying it “goes against everything human reason teaches us about marriage.”

“Marriage between one man and one woman is not the same as same-sex relationships,” he said in thestatement. “Therefore, treating them differently is not unjust discrimination and should not be ruled as such.

“If the law does not respect truth, it undermines the common good. Overturning DOMA gravely impacts the institution of marriage and the religious freedoms of those who uphold marriage and its redefinition.”

For the most part, though, Maine leaders applauded the ruling along with many residents who are impacted.

Betsy Smith, the executive director of Equality Maine, said that as recently as two years ago, she would have been surprised if the Supreme Court overturned DOMA. But when the court ruled Wednesday, she wasn’t surprised.

“I actually felt this was the way it was going to go,” Smith said, “because of the momentum that has been building over the last several years and some of it because of what Maine has done and several other states. Maine has really led the way. We were the first state to put marriage on the ballot to approve same-sex marriage, and they did in November.”

And while Smith cheered the court’s decision, she said there is still a lot of work to be done in the 38 states that still do not recognize gay marriage.

“But for Maine, for California, for all the states that do have marriage, and of course for all the country, it is a great and historic day,” said Smith, speaking in the Portland Press Herald newsroom.

Smith, who heads the statewide organization that promotes full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said Wednesday’s court ruling means that married same-sex couples in Maine will now have the same federal protections and benefits as married heterosexual couples. Those include the ability to file taxes jointly and more than 1,000 other benefits and protections, she said.

Chris Kast of Portland said he was in his office at The Brand Company in the Old Port where he works as a brand strategist on Wednesday morning when a friend came in and told him “DOMA’s gone.”

“I cried,” Kast said. “It made me feel really, really good.”

Kast, who married his partner, Byron Bartlett, on Dec. 29 after seven years together, had said leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision that he believed DOMA was very outdated though it was less than 20 years old.

“I thank the wisdom of the majority of the Supreme Court for realizing it’s a relic,” he said.

Kast said opponents of same-sex marriage realize it does not pose a threat after seeing marriages like his to Bartlett, who was out of town Wednesday.

“The sky’s not going to fall, and heterosexual marriages aren’t going to melt like glaciers in the Sahara,” he said.

Kast said the ruling will not benefit him directly but comes with the indirect benefit of saying to the whole country that “same-sex marriages are not an abomination.”

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, who attended the first same-sex marriage in Maine on Dec. 29, also cheered the Supreme Court’s decision at the City Hall rally.

“Once again, the state of Maine is leading the country, and the country is now following Maine,” Brennan said, speaking in the state of Maine Room after the rally planned for the City Hall steps had to be moved inside because of rain.

The rally was organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and was timely for the lead off speaker, Jill Barkley, group’s public policy advocate, who is marrying her girlfriend, Trish Burkholder, in the same City Hall room on July 12.

Burkholder now lives in Toronto and the couple has had to live in a long distance relationship until they are married and Barkley is able to file immigration papers for Burkholder to move to the United States.

“We are here today to say goodbye to the descriminatory Defense of Marriage Act,” Barkley said to cheers and a round of applause. “I no longer have to choose between the person I love and the country I love.”

Thousands of people had crammed the sidewalks in front of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on Wednesday morning in anticipation of the ruling. Two hours later, many jubilant gay-rights supporters were still there as former Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who was the first openly gay member of Congress, slowly made his way through the crowd.

Frank wedded his longtime partner Jim Ready of Ogunquit, Maine, last summer during a private ceremony in Massachusetts. Frank said at the time that they would have held the ceremony in Maine — where the couple spends much of their time — but same-sex marriage was not yet legal in the state.

“Very happy,” Frank said in between posing for photographs with elated gay-rights supporters and signing autographs. Frank said he and his partner will now be able to receive federal benefits and that the court’s decision “moved the country that much closer to equality.”

“And it came just in time for the state of Maine,” Frank said.

Both of Maine’s U.S. senators issued statements in support of the Supreme Court’s decision, including Sen. Susan Collins, who had declined to take a public position on same-sex marriage when the question was pending before Maine voters last year.

“DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, before I was elected to Congress. Since that time, in 2004 and 2006, I twice voted against amendments to the United States Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriages by pre-empting state laws. I did so because states have traditionally handled family law. I agree with the court’s decision that the federal government should not discriminate against couples married in states that choose to legalize same-sex marriages,” Collins said.

U.S. Sen. Angus King said: “Today the United States Supreme Court delivered justice to thousands of gay Americans who, although legally married in their home states, have for far too long been wrongly denied the equality they deserve under the law,” he said. “The landmark ruling represents a significant step forward in ensuring all married couples – all married couples – enjoy equal treatment under federal law and have access to all relevant benefits and protections. An important and good decision today from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud also issued statements applauding the court’s decision.

“DOMA was a bad law to begin with and the Supreme Court did the right thing in striking it down,” Pingree said in a written statement. “As voters and legislatures in Maine and states throughout the country have shown, the government has no business telling two people in a loving, committed relationship that they can’t get married. Although there is still a long way to go for true marriage equality in all 50 states, as of today the federal government won’t be standing in the way of that goal.”

Michaud said: “I applaud the justices for striking down the discriminatory ban that prohibits legally-married same-sex couples and their children in states like Maine from receiving all of the rights, protections and responsibilities marriage affords. I was proud to speak out publicly for the freedom to marry when Question 1 was on the ballot last year, and I was personally proud to vote ‘Yes’ to allow all loving, committed couples in our state to obtain a marriage license.”

Carroll Conley, the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said his group that campaigned last fall against same-sex marriage in Maine leading up to the ballot referendum disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision.

“That opinion assumes states have the right to force a definition of marriage upon the Federal government. Most importantly, the court rejected the argument that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Conley said. “We believe these decisions leave options open for a continued and vigorous advocacy of traditional marriage on a state-by-state basis. We are committed to continuing to defend the rights of Maine citizens to live by their conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Conley said that while his group is committed to “vigorous advocacy for traditional marriage,” the group is also committed to conducting that debate in a respectful manner.

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