One week after Maine marriage equality advocates announced they have gathered enough signatures to return the issue to the ballot, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) spoke on the House floor Thursday about the campaign to restore the rights of thousands of same-sex couples living in the state.
"They share homes and they raise children together, they remain committed to each other through the ups and downs of life," Pingree said in a brief floor speech.
"But because they are same-sex couples, they are denied the right to honor their love and commitment to each other through marriage," she continued. "This fall Maine will have a chance to change that and to join a growing list of states throughout the country that are setting aside discrimination and granting all couples the same right to get married. We've made progress here in Congress on ending discriminatory practices like 'don't ask, don't tell,' but it will be up to us in Maine to bring marriage equality to our state." (Video of the remarks below.)
Last week a coalition of LGBT groups submitted more than 100,000 signatures in support of a pro-marriage equality ballot measure for the November elections. In 2009 the state legislature passed a bill, signed into law by then-Gov. John Baldacci, granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, but the law was repealed by a voter referendum.
Pingree has asked Democratic leadership in Washington for support on the issue from party donors. Meanwhile, it's unclear whether the Democratic National Committee may aid in state battles, whether in Maine or in states such as North Carolina or Minnesota, where marriage equality opponents are pushing constitutional amendments.
According to the Portland Press Herald, Pingree's husband, billionaire hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, gave $390,000 in 2010 to Equality Maine, a lead organizer in the ballot measure effort (Pingree and Sussman married last year).
In an analysis of 2010 census data, the Williams Institute estimates that there are nearly 4,000 same-sex couples living in Maine.
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