The wheels of representative democracy are turning in Maine. Last week, the Maine Senate passed LD 1020, a bill affirming the right of same-sex couples to get married in the state of Maine and reiterating the right of churches to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. Yesterday, the Maine Senate passed LD 1020 and today Governor John Baldacci has signed the bill into law. This makes same-sex marriage legal in the state of Maine; the bill will take effect in September.
Governor Baldacci issued the following statement today after his decision to sign the bill into law:
I have followed closely the debate on this issue. I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste.
I appreciate the tone brought to this debate by both sides of the issue. This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question.
In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. 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.
Article I in the Maine Constitution states that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person’s civil rights or be discriminated against.’
This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State.
It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine’s civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government.
Even as I sign this important legislation into law, I recognize that this may not be the final word. Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people.
While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do.
Some people and institutions just can’t handle it when others are free. Take the Catholic Church, for instance. Even before this bill was passed and signed into law, representatives of the Catholic Church in Maine had declared their intention to flood the state with people and money from out of state in an effort to eliminate the freedom to marry. Catholic ads against marriage are already airing on TV.
Anticipating that legislators in Maine would favor marriage equality, forces allied with the Catholic Church have already formed a new anti-marriage Political Action Committee (PAC) in the state called Maine Marriage Initiative. Listed under another set of names, but both utilizing the services of the same Whiting Law Firm, is another anti-marriage PAC called Marriage Matters in Maine. Peter McPartland, Director of Parish Financial Services for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, just happens to also be the Treasurer for the Maine Marriage Initiative. Linda Moulin of the Portland Diocesan Office of Public Affairs happens to be this PAC’s President, although the PAC is doing its darndest to obscure the connection here. Michael Hein, leading a state affiliate of the fundamentalist Focus on the Family, has cleared out the funds of another PAC, shuttling the funds over to his new Marriage Matters in Maine PAC.
Let’s not, in short, pretend that the Roman Catholic Church and Focus on the Family aren’t going to throw their full weight in personnel and money behind a religious, theocratic effort to clamp down on freedom to marry in Maine. Out-of-state conservatives have shoveled money into Maine politics before; we shouldn’t be surprised to see this happen again. In the months to come, we’ll keep a close eye on these matters, looking carefully for signs of any untoward shenanigans.