By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
On May 6, Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D) signed a newly passed bill allowing gay marriage, making it the fifth state in the U.S. to approve the practice. However, citizens may be able to halt the legislation by exercising their right to a “People’s Veto.”
Maine’s Senate voted 21-13 to approve a bill authorizing marriage between any two people, sending it to the governor’s desk for signature. The House passed the bill on Tuesday. No one was sure if Gov. Baldacci would sign the legislation because he has openly opposed gay marriage in the past.
During the debate, Republican Senator Debra Plowman (R) argued that the bill was being passed “at the expense of the people of faith,” and warned that “you are making a decision that is not well-founded.”
But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Philip Bartlett II said the bill does not compel religious institutions to recognize gay marriage.
“We respect religious liberties,” Bartlett said, then added, “This is long overdue.”
This legislation makes Maine the fourth state in New England, to allow same-sex marriage. Connecticut enacted a bill after being ordered to allow gay marriages by the courts, and Vermont passed a bill over the governor’s veto. Recognition of gay marriage was also ordered in Massachusetts by the state’s high court.
Another New England state with gay marriage on the horizon is New Hampshire where the legislature has just passed a gay marriage bill that will soon land on the desk of Democratic governor John Lynch for signature. Like Baldacci, Lynch has also opposed gay marriage in the past. In Rhode Island, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage has been introduced but is not expected to pass this year.
Opponents of gay marriage in the state of Maine can stop this legislation from taking effect by exercising their right to a “People’s Veto.” This is a citizen petition effort that requires 60,000 signatures to force a statewide vote on a measure. The process has been used successfully in the past.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, urged the people and Gov. Baldacci to sign the petition and allow the people to vote on a matter of such grave important to the future of the family.
“Governor Baldacci and the Democratic-dominated legislature have failed to protect the rights of families and children by refusing to protect the institution of marriage, which provides the next generation with the best environment for growth, health and happiness,” Perkins said. “By providing the means for the establishment of special rights for a select few, they have acted at the expense of the natural family and future generations. . . .
“(W)e call on the governor to become the first to sign a ‘People’s Veto’ petition and affirm the people’s right to resolve a matter of such grave importance. . . . The people of Maine have the right to respond to protect marriage and they should do so promptly.”
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