For Immediate Release
EqualityMaine Applauds House Passage of Marriage Equality Bill
AUGUSTA, Maine - 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.
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EqualityMaine is Maine's oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) political advocacy organization. Our members and supporters hail from every region of the state, brought together by a common goal: making equality a reality for all citizens.