Sunday June 16, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Ten same-sex couples exchanged vows Saturday during a group wedding in Portland’s largest park during an annual gay pride parade and festival.

Organizers held the mass wedding in Deer Oaks Park as a celebration of Maine’s new gay marriage law, which was passed by voters in November and went into effect on Dec. 29.

Festival organizer Mark Holt said Southern Maine Pride has been on the forefront advocating for legalizing same-sex marriage for the 27 years it’s put on the parade and festival. The theme of this year’s event is "Marry Me."

"Therefore we feel it is important to show how far we have come in these past three decades by publicly and freely expressing our new legal rights," Holt said.

Hold said about 10,000 people participated in this year’s festival, which started with a noontime parade from the city’s Monument Square to the park.

The festival ran through the afternoon and included a gay wedding expo tent featuring more than 30 wedding-related vendors from around Maine.

Among the participants in this year’s parade were Michael Snell and Steven Bridges, who were the first couple married in Portland after the gay marriage became legal at midnight on Dec. 29.

The grand marshal for this year’s parade was Richard Blanco, who lives in Bethel and who was the inaugural poet at President Barack Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in in January.