Maine’s governor signs marriage equality bill, making the state the fifth in the nation to approve marriage rights for same-sex couples.
On May 6, Governor Baldacci of Maine signed a marriage equality bill into law, extending marriage equality to same-sex couples in the state. Advocacy efforts were led by EqualityMaine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the Maine Women’s Lobby and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). Baldacci’s announcement came shortly after the Maine Senate gave its final approval. “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,” said the governor in a written statement. Baldacci’s support comes despite a history of opposition to marriage for same-sex couples.
Marriages for same-sex couples will not begin immediately in Maine and may be challenged by a voters’ referendum. These developments come in the wake of victories in Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut and Massachusetts (the first state to grant same-sex couples the right to marry in 2004). New England is poised to become the only region in the nation where all states but one offer full marriage equality. The New Hampshire legislature has passed a marriage bill that now awaits governor approval. And in nearby Washington, D.C., the mayor is set to approve or reject a marriage recognition bill recently passed with overwhelming support from the D.C. City Council.
“Today in Maine, old-fashioned New England values of fairness and common sense again have carried the day,” says Jennifer Pizer, Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director. “People of all ages understand that marriage makes families, and that separate and unequal are not the American way. Seeing fairness prevail — not just across common sense New England, but in our nation’s capital and the heartland of Iowa — it’s clear that we have turned a corner from ‘Yes We Can,’ to ‘Aye’ and ‘I Do’.”
On April 27, Iowa began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, following our landmark victory in Varnum v. Brien. Lambda Legal also helped win marriage for Connecticut same-sex couples in 2008 by filing a ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief in the successful legal challenge brought by GLAD. And on the west coast, advocates for fairness and opportunity await the California Supreme Court decision in Strauss v. Horton — the case against a discriminatory ballot measure narrowly passed by voters last year brought by Lambda Legal and co-counsel NCLR and ACLU.