Gay marriage bill filed; co-sponsor list released

State senator Dennis Damon (D-Hancock) filed a bill this afternoon that would legalize same-sex civil marriage in Maine. A look at the bill's co-sponsors offers some insights into what the debate will look like once the legislature takes it up. 

-- No surprises that Portland's entire delegation is on the list.

-- Notable, however, are names from Lewiston, Bangor, Skowhegan, and Calais. "Included on the list are members that have more traditionally moderate voting records," says Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. Supporters were heartened to see John Nutting (D-Androscoggin), an elder in his Presbyterian church, lending his vocal support.

-- Several members of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary -- through which the bill will have to pass before it gets to the senate -- are co-sponsors.

"I think this co-sponsorship list is huge," Bellows says, referring both to its size and its importance. "To have over 50 state legislators stand in solidarity with Senator Damon and the Maine Freedom To Marry Coalition is an indication that the legislature is committed to ending discrimination this session."

We'll be following this issue closely. 

Here's the press release from Damon's office (take note of the April 24th public hearing announcement at the bottom): Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0pc .45pc 0pc .45pc; mso-para-margin:0pc; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;}

 Marriage Equality Bill Receives Over 50 Co-Sponsors

Marriage Equality Bill Receives Over 50 Co-Sponsors

AUGUSTA— Responding to a groundswell of support from across Maine for marriage equality, more than fifty state senators and representatives signed on to co-sponsor “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” sponsored by Senator Dennis S. Damon (D-Hancock County).  Together, they represent Maine’s smallest towns and largest cities from Calais to Bangor to Lewiston to Kittery.  The list represents first-term legislators and the Senator with the longest overall legislative service, Senator Joseph Brannigan. 

“I knew from the beginning that this bill wouldn’t succeed without broad support from my colleagues around the state,” said Senator Damon.  “Frankly, I never imagined that there would be this much support, and I think it says a lot about Mainers’ commitment to fairness.”

The civil marriage bill would make Maine the third state in the country to extend the legal rights and protections of marriage to same-sex couples.  The bill affirms that religious institutions continue to have control over their own religious doctrine and teachings regarding who may marry within each faith.

“It was important to me that this bill make it clear that churches can still decide who they will and won’t marry,” said Senator John Nutting (D-Androscoggin), an elder in his Presbyterian church.  “This bill is about civil marriage, not religious ceremony.”

Co-sponsorship is generally restricted ten sponsors: one primary sponsor, one lead cosponsor from the other chamber and eight cosponsors from either chamber.  Because so many legislators wanted to have their names associated with the bill, Legislative leadership approved opening the bill up for unlimited sponsorship.

“We think it’s time to end discrimination in Maine,” said Hannah Pingree (D-North Haven), Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and the lead co-sponsor on the bill.  “In these difficult times we want to make sure all Maine families are protected under Maine law.”

The bill has referred to the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary, which will hold a public hearing on the bill on April 24th at Cony High School.  The public is invited to give testimony.

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