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.
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.
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.
"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
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.
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
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, Advocate.com)