When Joe Rouch and Jeff Aberle, of Gaithersburg, planned their wedding, they wanted to be first and they wanted to be surrounded by friends and family.
Wednesday they fulfilled those plans becoming the first same sex couple to be married at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville in a 9 a.m. ceremony, just one half hour after the Office of the Clerk of the Court opened for the day,
Same sex marriages became legal in Maryland Jan. 1, but the courthouse was closed that day, Loretta Knight, clerk of the court for Montgomery County, who performed the ceremony, explained.
She said five same sex couples had made appointments for weddings to be performed on Jan. 2.
Rouch said he and Aberle have been together for 13 and 1/2 years and considered going to Washington, D.C., Massachusetts or even Canada to get married.
“But we waited to see what would happen in Maryland, in our home state,” he said. “We wanted our family here and that's the most important thing.”
In addition to the almost 20 family members and friends attending the ceremony, Rouch and Aberle shared the day with two-month-old Jamie Michelle, a little girl they are in the process of adopting.
“She's our little flower girl,” Rouch said, holding the baby who was dressed in pink and white for the occasion.
After the men exchanged vows Knight asked them if they would like to add anything.
“Thirteen and 1/2 years,” Aberle said to his spouse, “I never thought I'd be here standing with you.”
He said it all felt different as soon as they exchanged rings.
“It was real,” he said.
Joe's mother, Joyce Rouch, of North Potomac said she thought [the wedding] was wonderful.
“I thought they might have a civil union but not the real wedding,” she said.
Outside the courthouse same sex marriage supporters from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union greeted the couple with signs reading “Celebrate Marriage Equality” and “Labor Supports Equality.”
“UFCW is supporting gay marriage,” Jay Pascucci, of Silver Spring, said. “We just tried to get people here to celebrate on the first day that same sex couples could get married legally in Maryland.”
As newlyweds came out of the courthouse, supporters handed them pink flowers to congratulate them.
“We haven't had any negativity, people are very supportive,” Pascucci said.