They were assuming the referendum would pass, but didn't rest easy until late into election night.

"We stayed up all night waiting," Ambrose said.

They had talked about marrying in Washington, D.C., or in Vermont, where Ambrose was born and has family. But they decided, "We live here and own property here," said Ambrose, of Hamilton. "We want to get married in the state we live in."

That's also why Guilford residents Frank McNeil and Paul Fowler have waited this long to marry.

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"We could have gotten married elsewhere, but it wouldn't have had the same impact," McNeil said.

McNeil, 50, a banker, and Fowler, 49, a radiation oncologist, who met in the mid-1990s at First and Franklin Presbyterian Church in downtown Baltimore, are now planning their wedding. No date is set. Coming from Oklahoma to preside at the wedding will be Fowler's father, a Baptist minister.

Following their conscience

Attorney Randy Knepper, general counsel to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, said he wore his Maryland pin at the Greater Homewood Community Corp.'s annual dinner Nov. 10, "because I'm so proud of Maryland."

Knepper, former president of the Greater Homewood Board of Directors, lobbied for the law and worked the polls on Election Day.

"I'm elated," Knepper said. "I think (voters) followed their conscience and not their religious leaders," many of whom opposed the law.

But the Rev. Donald Burgraff, pastor of First English Lutheran Church in Guilford, wasn't one of them.

"Our congregation took a stand that we're going to welcome everybody," Burgraff said.

Retired Social Security Administration legislative planner Glen Dehn, a congregant of First English church, and his longtime partner, Charles Blackburn, a congregant of First Unitarian Church in downtown Baltimore, are planning their own wedding at First Unitarian for early next year.

It would be the culmination of their 34-year relationship, said the Bolton Hill couple. They were among the original couples that joined Deane and Polyak in suing the city in 2004 to get married.

"We'll be respected like any other married couple," said Blackburn, 79, a former fundraiser, Unitarian minister and American Civil Liberties Union national staff member.

And he said, "We've done about as much as we can do legally without marriage."

They are still pressing for federal benefits, but for that to happen, Congress would have to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which is unlikely given the political makeup of Congress, Blackburn said.

Nonetheless, it's a major victory for same-sex couples.

"On one hand, it's just another day," Polyak said. "On the other hand, it feels like the world changed."