A bill to extend to domestic partners inheritance rights in Maine received preliminary approval by a one-vote margin on Wednesday in the state senate. The 18-17 vote came five days after the house of representatives adopted the measure, which applies to male-female as well as same-sex domestic partnerships. The bill's supporters say it would establish equality in the treatment of domestic partners who are faced with the death of their partner, but opponents say it opens the door to same-sex marriages.
During a brief debate assistant senate minority leader Chandler Woodcock said the bill would place "a terrific burden" on the already overburdened probate courts. The Farmington Republican also said the bill is unnecessary because domestic partners can express their final wishes in wills. Sen. Peggy Pendleton (D-Scarborough), a supporter, cited figures showing that only half of Americans write wills. "This bill addresses those who die without a will," said Pendleton.
As amended by an identical 18-17 roll call in the senate, the bill also creates a domestic-partnership registry within the state Health Bureau, in which those who meet certain criteria could register as domestic partners by filing notarized forms with the registry. With the amendment the house and senate have endorsed separate versions of the bill. The two chambers must agree on a single version if it is to win enactment.