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New England Heads
Toward Marriage Equality

New England Heads
Toward Marriage Equality

Maine state senator Dennis Damon introduced a bill Tuesday that proposes legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.

Maine state senator Dennis Damon introduced a bill Tuesday that proposes legalizing marriage for same-sex couples.

"Today I have submitted an act to end discrimination in civil marriage and to affirm religious freedom," he said at a press conference in the state capitol.

The state now offers domestic partnerships to unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians. Damon's bill would rewrite present law defining marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.

However, as Damon, a Democrat, submitted his landmark legislation, Republican lawmaker John Tardy worked to draft legislation that would keep marriage limited to heterosexual Mainers. Mark Mutty, director of public policy for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, said that redefining marriage "would open it up to all kinds of other things," according to the Bangor Daily News.

Maine governor John Baldacci said in a statement that he is not yet prepared to support same-sex marriage and still favors civil unions. However, he did concede that gays and lesbians still face discrimination.

Damon agrees. "Heterosexual couples who have decided to spend their lives together are treated differently than same-sex couples who have ... that same commitment to each other," Damon said, according to the Associated Press. "I don't see the fairness of that. I don't see the need for that, and this bill will put an end to that." The Democrats hold the majority in both houses of the state legislature.

Maine would be the third U.S. state with marriage equality for all residents. Fellow New England states Massachusetts and Connecticut allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, while in California gay marriage is currently in limbo as the state supreme court readies itself to hear arguments over whether to overturn Proposition 8, the ballot measure passed in November that limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.

New Hampshire representative Jim Splaine has signed off on a bill proposing marriage equality in his state. He said the bill will face a public hearing within the next two to three weeks. New Hampshire and Vermont currently offer civil unions to gay and lesbian residents. However, Splaine told Reuters, "I think it is important to make our civil unions have full marriage equality with the word 'marriage' so that it is clear that we do not discriminate and that we welcome same-gendered couples."

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders said Rhode Island may also vote on marriage equality legislation soon. The Boston-based group says its goal is to bring marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples throughout New England by 2012. (Michelle Garcia,

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