Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Marry in Maine, Too?

The moment the Maine meanies dreaded was today. A state senator has introduced a same-sex marriage bill.

The reactionaries are not losing a step though. Over in the house, there's a move afoot (maybe stuck to the bottom of the shoe) to turn the state's current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman to a DOMA-style constitutional amendment.

It looks like Augusta will be plenty warm for the rest of the winter.

Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock) sponsored An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom. Who could argue with such a noble bill, you ask? Well, for one, that would be Rep. Josh Tardy, house Republican leader.

Maine has domestic partnerships and finally passed a gay-rights bill (defeating efforts to reverse it at the ballot). In addition, Gov. John Baldacci is open to the SSM idea. However, he's not driving the bill. As he put it, "Unfortunately, there is no question that gay and lesbian people and their families still face discrimination...I’m not prepared to say I support gay marriage today, but I will consider what I hear as the Legislature works to find the best way to address discrimination."

Maine has indeed covered a lot of ground is a short time.

P.M. Update: Turn Maine Blue has both the text of the bill and comments from principals here. I would note that this follows the Massachusetts model in that marriage remains a civil contract and any couple entitled to a license can marry. The change, of course, is the gender neutrality, as in equal rights by gender. Good on 'em.

Back to speculation, I bet that neither measure goes very far. Tardy is just pandering to the wingers. That amendment process can't go forward until the next general election — 2010 at the earliest, assuming that his amendment proposal that flies in the face of current equal-rights law and regulations passes by two-thirds or better simultaneously in both houses. As for Damon's alignment of marriage procedure with equal-rights, the state is still a bit shell shocked over being fair to homosexuals in housing and employment. Moreover the lukewarm neutrality of the government does nothing to spark this little engine.

I think Tardy's will die the death of the rabid animal in the wilderness and that Damon's will take two or three years to get perking. Though in the end, this may be a race between New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Maine for the next marriage equality state in New England.

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Anonymous said...

I was quite heartened to learn that SSM supporters hoped to collect 3,000 signatures by like-minded voters on election day, and instead were flooded with 30,000. That's just phenomenal. I don't know the lay of the land in ME, but things do look promising.

Do you know the procedure required to amend the ME constitution? A long and arduous one I hope.

massmarrier said...

Oh, my, you made me look. That would be on page 36 of the state constitution, Article X, Section 4.

It's not trivial, but much easier than the Massachusetts process. It involves:
—Two-thirds of both houses of the legislature must propose the amendment in agreement.
—At their biennial meetings, the cities and towns vote on the proposed amendment (this would be the every-other-year election).
—A simple majority votes it up or down.