By Zach Howard
(Reuters) - Same-sex couples can start marrying on December 29 in Maine, a state that made history on Election Day, joining Maryland and Washington to legalize gay weddings for the first time ever by popular vote.
The law goes into effect following a required 30-day waiting period after Governor Paul LePage on November 29 certified the results from the November 6 election, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, Adrienne Bennett, said on Monday.
"The long wait for marriage for same-sex couples in Maine is almost over," Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, said in a joint statement with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
"Before the end of this year, all loving and committed couples in Maine will be able to stand before their friends, family and community and make a lasting vow to be there for one another," Smith said.
In last month's historic vote approving same sex marriage, some 53 percent of those deciding the issue in Maine voted in favor of the new law, said the ACLU of Maine.
Marriage equality advocates are still trying to determine what level of activity there will be on December 29, because Maine's town halls won't necessarily be open, since it is a Saturday.
"It could be that for the vast majority of people, the first practical time they can get a license will on (Monday) December 31," David Farmer, spokesman for EqualityMaine, told Reuters.
"But we anticipate that some of the bigger municipalities will in fact open; we don't have confirmation of that yet," he said.
While the law allows same-sex couples to marry, there are a number of questions remaining about implementing the law as well as potential action by the U.S. Supreme Court on federal marriage law, the statement from EqualityMaine and GLAD said.
The Supreme Court on Monday remained silent about whether it will enter the legal fray over same-sex marriage and hear one of several pending appeals on the issue. The court's nine justices met in private on Friday to consider whether to review challenges to the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples, and to California's gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.
Nine of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized gay marriage, while 31 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman)