Gay marriage passed another hurdle this morning in Maine. Legislation to allow same-sex marriage passed the state's House of Representatives 89 to 57. It had already been approved by the Senate and now goes to Governor John Baldacci for his signature. Baldacci hasn't publicly said whether he'll approve the legislation or veto it, but my sources say he'll sign it.
Organization statements after the jump.
Statement by Betsy Smith
Executive Director, EqualityMaine
"The Maine House of Representatives today followed the lead of the Senate, which stood solidly in support of fairness and equality for all Maine families. We've had a majority of support in the House all along, and applaud its leadership in both supporting the bill and defeating any attempt to send this issue to voters to decide.
"Our long-term partnership with the Task Force has provided us with the expertise to build and run a grassroots program unprecedented in Maine. It has enabled us to identify, recruit and train volunteers to have face-to-face conversations with tens of thousands of voters, who then contacted their legislators in support of marriage. It wasn't long ago when LGBT families would not have come forward to tell the stories of their lives to their neighbors and legislators. Our partnership with the Task Force has made all the difference."
Statement by Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
"This vote marks another pivotal step forward in the effort to secure equality for all Mainers. It's an exciting moment, and one that affirms the national momentum building for marriage equality. The decisive passage of this legislation, along with the recent marriage wins in Iowa and Vermont, shows that people nationwide recognize that the fundamental protection specifically provided through the institution of marriage is what is necessary to achieve genuine fairness. Through debate, dialogue and careful consideration, they are concluding that denying this basic right doesn't protect anyone; it simply places more families in harm's way and makes them more vulnerable to hardship.
"We congratulate our state partner, EqualityMaine, for this hard-fought victory. Thanks to EqualityMaine's leadership, same-sex couples in Maine are at the cusp of winning the freedom to marry."
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised the Maine State House of Representatives for its vote today in favor of legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry under state law. The state House voted 89 to 58 in favor of the measure, which previously passed the State Senate last week.
"The march towards marriage equality for all loving, committed couples continues across this country," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Today, Maine joins the growing list of states who have voted to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples. It's becoming increasingly clear that legislators across the nation understand that it's simply the right thing to do. We congratulate Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree for her championing of this legislation and Equality Maine for its great work in building support for equality. We urge Maine Governor John Baldacci to sign this bill into law and unequivocally place Maine on the right side of history."
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.
Four states have recognized marriage for same-sex couples under state law: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont (effective September 1, 2009). Last month, Iowa's state supreme court unanimously ruled that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the equal right to marry. On April 7, Vermont's legislature overrode Gov. Douglas' veto, making Vermont the first state to recognize marriage equality through the legislative process. Connecticut also enacted a bill codifying the state supreme court's October 2008 decision recognizing marriage for same-sex couples.
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.
Maine currently provides same-sex couples with access to limited rights and benefits through a domestic partner registry.
Same-sex couples do not receive federal rights and benefits in any state.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund applauds the Maine House's passage today of legislation that would extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. The vote was 89 to 57. The measure cleared the Senate last week; the bill faces one more vote in that chamber before heading to Gov. John Baldacci.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund have invested significantly in the work of EqualityMaine to build greater political power for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community:
The Task Force Foundation has:
- Given $82,000 to launch and grow EqualityMaine's first-ever voter identification project. The grant enabled EqualityMaine to hire its first statewide organizer to recruit and train hundreds of volunteers to talk with voters face to face about marriage equality and identify voters supportive of the issue. As a result, EqualityMaine has built a list of more than 50,000 identified supporters of the freedom to marry, one of the largest such state lists in the country.
- Organized the Maine LGBT Power Summit in late April, which brought together 140 leaders from across the country, including more than 70 Mainers, for training in campaign fundamentals. At the summit, participants walked door to door and spoke with more than 1,100 voters about marriage equality.
- Trained more than 30 additional Maine leaders at Task Force Power Summits in 2004-2005 to support EqualityMaine's voter identification project.
The Task Force Action Fund has:
- Sent organizers to work on the ground in Maine in February 2009 to launch EqualityMaine's marriage equality field program. Following the April Power Summit, several Task Force organizers remained in Maine to provide additional field support in the final days leading up to the Senate vote.
- Provided $20,000 to EqualityMaine in seed money in January 2009 to hire nine field organizers.
- Dedicated a Task Force organizer to work full time for one month in the No on 1 campaign in 2005, which successfully defeated a referendum that would have repealed its statewide nondiscrimination law.
- Contributed $93,000 to the No on 1 campaign.