Portland, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It was just before midnight when the leaders behind Maine's gay marriage referendum took the stage to announce voters had approved allowing same sex couples to marry.
"We have finally won the freedom to marry!" Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage announced to the crowd before being drowned out by cheering.
As the word spread there were plenty of hugs and tears of joy shed as members of Maine's LGBT community reacted to the news.
"This is a landmark victory and we are thrilled," exclaimed Patricia Peard, a long-time advocate for gay rights and marriage in Maine. "I have no words to tell you how happy I am that all committed couples in Maine are now going to be able to be married and have the same protections. We are thrilled!"
Maine voters approved same sex marriage by a margin of 53 to 47 percent, the same exact percentage of voters who repealed a law approved by the legislature and signed by then Governor John Baldacci back in 2009.
"When we choose to get married, it is important that it is legal," said Sarah Holmes. "It is important that it is something that is going to serve to recognize the partnership that we have and the family that we are creating."
Holmes and her fiance, Anna Schwartz, said the reality is just starting to set in less than 24 hours after the votes were tallied.
"It is a little overwhelming, it is a little nerve wracking, like wow, this is going to be real," said Schwartz, who proposed to Holmes on Halloween. The couple have been together for five years and are registered as domestic partners with the state.
Schwartz says getting married is something she has always dreamed of, not being in a civil union. "I know that that sounds really awful, but to think it didn't mean the same thing, it didn't have the same emotional impact, it didn't have the same civil impact and that is the reality."
Now the couple will work to pick a date and make arrangements, though they admit it will be at least next year before they are prepared financially to have the ceremony they have talked and dreamt about.
"It is amazing how such a little thing as one vote, a little thing as one issue, makes me feel so different, makes me feel as though this is a community that embraces me," said Holmes.
"I think for those of us who are LGBT identified, who are in same sex relationships, it has such a different meaning, it is such a different thing, because now our dreams can mean the same as it does for others because it is the same. We can be a part of it in a way that we have been not been able to, that we've been denied to be a part of before."