Marriage passes Maine House

Here are press releases from EqualityMaine and Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders: 

EqualityMaine Applauds House Passage of Marriage Equality Bill

AUGUSTA - The momentum continues to build in favor of legislation granting marriage equality to same-sex couples in Maine. In the halls of the State House on Tuesday, leaders of the coalition backing the bill hailed the impressive vote in the House of Representatives sending the bill one big step closer to enactment.

"Since we began our campaign, thousands of Mainers have raised their voices in support of fairness for gay and lesbian families," said Betsy Smith, Executive Director of EqualityMaine.  "Today an overwhelming number of legislators agreed that marriage should be open to all Maine families."

With the Senate already on record 21-14 in favor of LD 1020, the Tuesday House vote means that the legislation granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples is only two steps away from final passage. The bill introduced by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock) and backed by more than 60 co-sponsors needs only a second Senate vote, and a signature from Gov. John Baldacci.

"We are thrilled that the House of Representatives has now joined the Senate in backing protections for all Maine families and children," said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, a member of the Maine Coalition for Freedom to Marry.  "The right to marriage, which provides so much social and economic support, will be a boon to so many Maine families with children who have been struggling in these challenging economic times. We are very gratified."

LD 1020 would allow qualified same sex couples to marry, as well as recognize similar marriages legally performed in other states. The bill affirms that religious organizations will still control what marriages they choose to perform, but that civil marriage rights will be granted equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

"I think the Legislature has clearly recognized that this bill does not pose a threat to religious freedom," said Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders.  "Mainers have listened to this debate and realized that it is about civil marriage rights, and the need to treat all Maine couples fairly."

The second Senate vote is expected to happen this week and action by the Governor could come soon after that. The bill would then become law 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature, expected in mid-June. If opponents of marriage equality seek to mount a people's veto campaign, they would need to gather signatures for a referendum vote, which could be held as soon as November.

If opponents force this issue to the ballot, Smith said she was optimistic about the results.  EqualityMaine has been organizing in all areas of the state, and they have found strong support for marriage equality.  "Our work all across Maine has convinced us that Maine people are in support of granting fair and equal treatment for all families, and we are confident that we will prevail if it comes to a vote," said Smith.



Statement of Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, on Maine Vote

Maine's House of Representatives voted 89 - 58 in favor of the marriage equality bill that was passed last week by the Senate.  Next, it goes to Governor Baldacci, who has said he is listening and keeping an open mind. 

The following is the statement of Lee Swislow, Executive Director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders:

The legislature not only listened, they heard.  They heard that marriage is not just a bundle of rights, but is dignity and respect; it is full and equal citizenship; it represents a future of hope for gay and lesbian youth.  We are hopeful that Governor Baldacci is hearing this, too.

When we said in November that we intended to achieve marriage equality in all six New England states by 2012, people may have thought we were crazy.  But having won our lawsuits in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and working with strong partners in the states, we knew it was possible.  We're proud and we're excited, and we're hopeful for all of New England, and for the entire country.

GLAD is New England's leading legal organization devoted to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.  GLAD brought the lawsuits that resulted in marriage equality in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

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