A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine has generated passion in the statehouse, though its passage remains unlikely. Key lawmakers on Tuesday said the bill, introduced by Republican representative Brian Duprey of Hampden, will be defeated. Even Duprey, who introduced the bill at the request of a constituent he was asked not to identify, said he will vote it down. Duprey also said he will push for a constitutional amendment to keep the legislature from legalizing same-sex marriages in the future.
Lee Umphrey, a spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, said he believes Duprey's bill is ill-timed. The legislature should first enact measures to prevent discrimination of gays, an agenda Baldacci has pushed. "That needs to happen before anything else happens," Umphrey said. Baldacci's bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, credit, housing, and public accommodations, but the governor's bill would not legalize same-sex marriage.
Equality Maine, the state's leading advocacy group for gays and lesbians, considered putting in a same-sex marriage bill this year but decided against it because "the timing just is not right," said executive director Betsy Smith. Smith said her agency will not take a position on Duprey's marriage bill until the group meets to discuss it, but she hinted that lawmakers may be right in predicting defeat of Duprey's bill.
House majority leader Glenn Cummings (D-Portland) said even if the bill fails as expected, he believes Duprey's legislation may help gay and lesbian activists in other ways. Duprey's bill will open a public dialogue in Maine on legalizing same-sex marriage, which could benefit supporters in the long run, Cummings said. In the short term, Cummings said, a legislative debate on same-sex marriage
this year may help Baldacci push his antidiscrimination bill.