Maine legislators will consider a proposal that would change the state constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. "The recent Massachusetts ruling proved that statutory definitions of marriage are susceptible to attack," said state representative Brian Duprey (R-Hampden), who proposed the amendment Tuesday. "Only a constitutional definition of marriage will protect the Maine statute." Duprey proposed the constitutional amendment in response to a Massachusetts court ruling that same-sex couples have the right to marry under that state's constitution. It is unclear whether Duprey has enough support even to get a legislative committee to consider the amendment. It must win support in the house and senate before a judiciary committee can look at it.
House majority leader John Richardson (D-Brunswick) said he feels that house Democrats would have little interest in an amendment. The last weeks of the session have to be dedicated to working on tax reform, not the issue of same-sex marriages, he added. "The fact we already have a law may affect how people view it," said house speaker Patrick Colwell (D-Gardiner). The state's "defense of marriage act" defines marriage as a union between a man and woman and forbids the recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Duprey said the only way to "protect" the state from same-sex marriages is a constitutional amendment to prevent state judges from overturning the state's DOMA on constitutional grounds. Duprey would need a two-thirds majority vote in the house and senate and approval in a referendum to pass the amendment. Groups on both sides of the debate said they plan to monitor Duprey's proposal. Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League, said he backs Duprey's proposal to ensure that same-sex marriages are not recognized in Maine. He said an amendment would create a much higher legal standard. But Betsy Smith, executive director of the Maine Lesbian Gay Political Alliance, said Duprey's proposal does not surprise her, since 20 states are looking at amendments or DOMAs. "We are cautiously optimistic this legislature would not, overnight, make a decision to have the judiciary committee write discrimination into the constitution," Smith said.