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April 21, 2009


In an article posted this morning, 365gay.com reported that public hearings on legislation that would allow gay marriages will begin tomorrow (4/22/09) at the Augusta Civic Center.

Actually, there are three bills dealing with same-sex unions that will be up for discussion. One is to repeal Maine's own 12 year old version of a Defense of Marriage Law which, like the federal DOMA law, bans same-sex marriages outright. Another would make all state laws and statutes gender neutral. Both of these bills are sponsored by Democratic Senator Dennis S. Damon of Trenton.

Although no more than 10 lawmakers are normally allowed to sign on as co-sponsors of a bill, Senator Damon said that 50 others sought to have their names added to the marriage bill. So now the bill has 60 co-sponsors that, according to Damon, represent both Democrats and Republicans and come from Maine’s smallest towns and largest cities.

Senator Damon was elected to the Maine Senate in 2002 and is currently serving his fourth and final term so, of course, passage of these two bills would be a great way for him to end his career.

The third bill up for discussion was filed by Republican Representative Leslie Fossel and it would create a domestic-partner registry but keep the Defense of Marriage Law in place.

According to the article:

Advocates and opponents of same-sex marriage have crisscrossed the state in recent weeks, drumming up support for their prospective sides.

Maine’s tourism industry has said legalizing same-sex marriage in the state could save them from disaster as the state’s economy continues to turn sour.

Industry spokespeople pointed to a recent study by the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California Los Angeles, that found extending marriage to same-sex couples would boost Maine’s economy by $60 million over three years, which would generate increases in state and local government tax and fee revenues by almost $3.6 million.

As expected, the very conservative Maine Marriage Alliance has threatened to press for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage outright if it looks like the bill is going to pass. If current trends continue however, the Alliance might find it a lot harder to just simply get the number of signatures needed to put that kind of amendment on the ballot.

Last November the Boston-based LGBT rights group, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), launched the “Six by Twelve” campaign to legalize gay marriage throughout all six New England states by 2012. GLAD mounted the successful legal challenges that lead to same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Wouldn't it be great if they succeeded ahead of schedule?

If Maine's bill passes and is signed into law, it would leave only New Hampshire and Rhode Island as the remaining two New England states without equal marriage laws.

Right now, marriage equality legislation has already passed the New Hampshire House and is currently before the Senate.