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May 6, 2009


As I reported briefly yesterday, Maine's House of Representatives passed gay marriage legislation (LD 1020) by a vote of 89 to 58.

This follows last week's Senate approval and earlier this morning Governor John Baldacci enthusiastically signed the bill despite much speculation that he might not sign it because of his previously stated beliefs about marriage and his expressed support for Civil Unions instead.

Prior to the vote, Balducci took the unusual step of personally calling two married, straight constituents who suported gay marriage. They had emailed him expressing their concern that he might be planning to abdicate his responsibilities by not signing the bill and simply letting it go to a voter referendum this fall.

During the unexpected and lengthy phone conversation Balducci, in referring to the an open forum community discussion, said:

I was extremely impressed by the arguments for both sides, but especially by the proponents.

They were very respectful- I liked that they turned their backs when they disagreed.

I was truly impressed by the people who spoke for the bill.

I was opposed to this for a long time, but people evolve, people change as time goes by.

According to a report by LezGetReal.com, at the bill's signing, Balducci said “In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

Main now becomes the 5th state to legalize gay marriages following Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. It's also the second state to do this by legislative action and the first state to it without having to override a governor's veto.

California has to announce their decision on the legality of Prop 8 by June 6th so we could be hearing about that any day now.

Box Turtle Bulletin reports the current state-by-state status as follows:

Colorado – The legislature passed a Designated Beneficiary Agreement Act, which has been signed by the Governor.

Illinois – a bill has been introduced to enact Civil Unions. The bill is currently waiting for a House vote.

Nevada – The Senate passed a bill to provide Domestic Partnerships with all the rights and obligations of marriage. It will go before the Assembly Judiciary on Friday. The Governor has promised to veto the bill but some sources say that there will be a compromise crafted before the legislature disbands in a month.

New Hampshire – The House and Senate have both passed a marriage bill. The Senate version had specific religious protections that were not in the House bill. The House Judiciary has approved the changes and they will go before a House vote tomorrow. The Governor has stated that he is opposed to gay marriage in the past but has not addresses this specific bill.

Hopefully, Governor Balducci's signature on Maine's legislation will put enough pressure on New Hampshire's Governor John Lynch to follow suit.

New York – A marriage bill has been introduced in the house. Log Cabin Republicans announced that they have found additional Republican support in the House for marriage. Senate Majority Leader Smith will not bring marriage to a vote in the Senate until adequate votes will assure its passage, which probably means that four to six Republicans will need to be convinced. Empire State Pride is doing polling in Republican districts and seeking to give them assurance that a vote for equality will not result in an election defeat.

Washington - a bill to upgrade the state’s Domestic Partnerships to provide all the rights and obligations of marriage has passed the Senate and House with large margins and will be signed by the Governor. A petition has been filed to put it to the voters.

District of Columbia – the Council voted to recognize out of state marriages. This bill will be signed by the Mayor and then Congress has 30 days to review and possibly overturn it by a majority vote in both houses and the signature of the President. A same-sex marriage bill is expected later this year.

Rhode Island is now the only New England state that doesn't have either same-sex marriage or civil unions. There are however, several bills before that state's legislature that could legalize one or the other of those two options.

As euphoric as all this is - and it is - it's likely that the momentum will begin to slow a bit as we come down to the more diehard conservative states.

Unless, of course, we get a couple of new Supreme Court Justices who will swing the balance away from hardcore ideology and back to fair and balanced equality. Then it could happen countrywide in one, quick swoop of the pen.

Wouldn't that be incredible!