Unlike its previous parent, Maine debates tend to turn deeply religious. What is now the State of Maine originally belonged to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until the Commonwealth allowed Maine to become a sovereign state (with Congressional approval) in 1820.
Since then, the politics of Maine and Massachusetts have been similar to the relationship of 'oil and water.' A legislative hearing this week to bring marriage equality to the New England State took on the atmosphere of a religious revival as ministers made impassioned speeches for and against the bill before thousands of people.
The Associated Press Reports:
The Judiciary Committee hearing drew so much interest that traffic became snarled early in the day. Gay marriage supporters hoping to build on momentum in the region arrived wearing red, and they gave a standing ovation to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Dennis Damon, as he opened the hearing. Police said it drew 3,500 to 4,000 people.
"This bill is fair. This bill's time has come," Damon, D-Trenton, said to a roar of approval. "It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us."
Damon's proposal — backed by more than 60 legislative co-sponsors — would repeal a state law that limits marriage to a man and a woman and replace it with one that authorizes marriage between any two people.
Also up for a discussion was a separate bill to allow civil unions — which offer many of the same rights as marriage — sponsored by Rep. Les Fossel, R-Alna.
Outside of New England, only Iowa allows gay marriage, though a handful of states allow similar arrangements.
The marriage effort's prospects in Maine are uncertain. The Legislature could approve it or reject it, or the state's voters could have the final say. Democratic Governor John Baldacci, who previously opposed the idea, now says he is keeping an open mind.
The Legislature has the option of sending the issue to voters in a referendum. Or, if the measure becomes law, opponents could initiate a "people's veto" effort.
The earliest a Judiciary Committee vote is expected would be April 28. The bill then goes to the Senate, then the House before it could be sent to the governor's desk.
Let us hope Maine follows in the footsteps of Massachusetts.