Governor signs gay marriage bill

Some intrepid Facebook reportage suggests that there will be an impromptu and informal celebration at 7 pm in Monument Square tonight.

Here's the Press Herald on today's events; here's As Maine Goes, and here's Pam's House Blend (with a really interesting story about a personal phone call Governor Baldacci made last week).

This is the statement of Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine: 

"Since we began our campaign, tens of thousands of Mainers have raised their voices in support of fairness for gay and lesbian families.  Today the Legislature and the Governor listened to the people of Maine and made marriage equality the law of this state.

"Two weeks ago thousands of Mainers traveled from every corner of the state to testify to their hopes for their families, and the harm that they suffer from not being able to marry.  Legislators took these stories not only into theirs heads, but also into their hearts.  They have responded quickly, in overwhelming majority, to make marriage for gay and lesbian couples the law of the land in Maine.  Today, the state of Maine has stated clearly that gay and lesbian families are valued citizens, worthy of the same rights and protections as all Maine families."

This is what the Human Rights Campaign had to say, giving some national context:

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued the following statement after Gov. John Baldacci signed legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples under state law.  The state Senate voted 21-14 and the state House of Representatives voted 89-57 to pass the legislation and send it to Gov. Baldacci for signature. 

"Just one year ago, a single state allowed same-sex couples to marry.  Now, with the historic step taken by Gov. Baldacci and the Maine legislature, five states will provide equal dignity, equal respect, and equal rights under state law for same-sex couples by recognizing their freedom to marry, and we hope more will follow soon," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  "Congratulations to Gov. John Baldacci, Senator Dennis Damon, and Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree for making sure all loving, committed couples in Maine, and their families, will have equal rights and responsibilities under state law, and congratulations to Equality Maine for the hard work it has done over the years to make today a reality."

Solmonese continued: "No religious institution will have to recognize any marriage under this law.  This law is simply about making sure that loving, committed couples, and their families, receive equal rights and responsibilities.  This is a step that will strengthen Maine families."

The Human Rights Campaign has had a field organizer on the ground in Maine for the past four months working with Equality Maine to build support for the marriage legislation.

In addition to Maine, four states have recognized marriage for same-sex couples under state law: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont (effective September 1, 2009). 

New York recognizes marriages by same-sex couples legally entered into in another jurisdiction.  California recognized marriage by same-sex couples between June and November of 2008, before voters approved Proposition 8, which purports to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality.  The Proposition 8 vote has been challenged in court; a decision by the state supreme court is expected by June.

Legislatures in New Hampshire and New York are also considering legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry under state law.
Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.  To learn more about state by state legislation visit:

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

And here is the statement from Baldacci's office, sent out earlier this afternoon:

Governor Baldacci Signs LD 1020, An Act to End Discrimination
in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom

AUGUSTA - Governor John E. Baldacci today signed into law LD 1020, An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.

"I have followed closely the debate on this issue. I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully," Governor Baldacci said. "I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste."

"I appreciate the tone brought to this debate by both sides of the issue," Governor Baldacci said. "This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question."

"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Governor Baldacci said. "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."

"Article I in the Maine Constitution states that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person's civil rights or be discriminated against.'"

"This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State," Governor Baldacci said.

"It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine's civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government."

"Even as I sign this important legislation into law, I recognize that this may not be the final word," Governor Baldacci said. "Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people."

"While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do," Governor Baldacci said.

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