Two Frederick women became the first same-sex couple in Frederick County to receive a marriage license Thursday.
Voters approved Maryland's same-sex marriage law in November and Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a proclamation Thursday morning affirming the law.
"I've been waiting for this," said 23-year-old Tia Bowens, who was at the Frederick County courthouse at about 12:30 p.m. "I wanted to be the first."
Bowens said she and her partner, Saigel Prather, 19, have been together for about six months.
They considered going to Washington, D.C., to get married, but when Maryland's same-sex law found voter approval, they decided to marry in their home city, Frederick.
"After three months, I knew she was the one I wanted to wake up to every day," Bowens said of Prather.
Kim Hinken was the first person to get a marriage license in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The 52-year-old Edgewater resident said she has waited nearly 10 years to become legally married to Adrianne Eathorne.
"I never thought that this would happen," Hinken said. "I really imagined my life as being just with a partner and never having a wife, so to have this day come about and to be a part of it, it means everything to me. It means that finally I can say that I live with my wife, and that I'm married. It makes me feel really a part of society."
O'Malley's proclamation enabled couples to get marriage licenses ahead of the Jan. 1 effective date. He signed legislation to allow same-sex marriage in March, but opponents gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot. Voters approved the ballot question last month with 52 percent of the vote.
Scott Bowling, a 41-year-old Annapolis resident, got a license to marry his partner right after Hinken.
He thanked O'Malley and lawmakers who fought to get the measure through.
"It's just heart-warming that we stand here today in this chapel, where one year ago we would not have been welcomed," Bowling said in an interview in the courthouse chapel.
Last week, Attorney General Doug Gansler issued a legal opinion that clarified when licenses could be obtained.
Couples have expressed interest in getting them in advance of the Jan. 1 effective date, in order to plan New Year's Eve weddings.
Couples who get a license far enough in advance will satisfy the state's 48-hour waiting period requirement, so they can be married at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1.
Gansler wrote that same-sex couples who have already been married in another state cannot get a license to marry in Maryland as long as the out-of-state marriage remains intact. Couples who have a civil union from another state can still get married in Maryland.
The Frederick County courthouse is closed Jan. 1, but if there is enough demand, a court official may perform marriages that day off-site.
If not, marriages at the courthouse will resume Jan. 2.
Couples that receive licenses with an effective date of Jan. 1 will have six months to hold a ceremony and return the necessary paperwork to the clerk's office.
The Associated Press contributed to this report