National News Notes
Maine OKs same-sex marriage
AUGUSTA, Maine â€” On May 6, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed into law a bill extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples in his state. The bill had already been overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate and House. With the governorâ€™s action, Maine joined Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in ending the exclusion of gay couples from marriage.
â€śThroughout weeks of conversations, constituent visits, town halls, and hearings, Maine legislators carefully listened to the stories of families, neighbors, businesses, and professional groups from around the state, and then democratically voted to end the denial of marriage that unfairly harmed gay Mainers and served no legitimate purpose,â€ť said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, a national organization working to secure equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. â€śCouples that have made a personal commitment in life deserve an equal commitment under the law â€” and in Maine, thatâ€™s called marriage.â€ť
Unless anti-gay forces take action, committed same-sex couples in Maine will be able to start getting married 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session, expected around the end of June. Opponents of equality are threatening to spend millions of dollars to gather signatures and mount an attack campaign to put a referendum on the November ballot.
â€śThe fight is not over in Maine,â€ť Wolfson said. â€śTo avoid a Prop 8-type assault in Maine, all who believe in fairness and equality under the law must take action now and over the next several months to ensure that the people in Maine get the information they need to reject the deceptive, anti-gay campaign we are likely to see mounted.â€ť
Equal marriage advocates praised the leaders of Equality Maine for working intensely in the legislature and with the public over the last few years to build support for same-sex marriage. The group assembled a strong gay and non-gay coalition in Maine that will now focus on fighting any attempts to deny the freedom to marry.
Gov. key to sixth marriage victory
CONCORD, N.H. â€” On the heels of the Maine decision, momentum for the right of same-sex couples to marry continues across the nation. At press time, New Hampshireâ€™s House and Senate had passed a marriage bill that was awaiting action by Gov. John Lynch.
Following the New Hampshire legislatureâ€™s passage of the bill granting the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, said, â€śWe are thrilled with the New Hampshire legislatureâ€™s passage of this critical legislation, which places same-sex couples at the cusp of attaining a fundamental freedom. The legislatureâ€™s action also affirms the national momentum building for marriage equality. It is clear that as people have discussed and considered this issue, they are increasingly recognizing that the protections provided through civil marriage are a vital part of full equality.â€ť
A poll released in late April by New Hampshire Freedom to Marry found that 55 percent of New Hampshire voters support marriage for lesbian and gay couples, while 39 percent are opposed. The poll, conducted by UNH Survey Center, surveyed 491 New Hampshire voters from April 13 through the 22.
â€śNew Hampshire has a live and let live attitude. These strong numbers in support of marriage equality are not surprising. A majority of New Hampshire voters have supported marriage equality since polling on the subject began in 2003. We hope that New Hampshire can soon join our neighbors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, and enact marriage equality,â€ť said Mo Baxley, executive director of New Hampshire Freedom To Marry.
The poll also found that 63 percent of Independent and 34 percent of Republican voters in New Hampshire support marriage for lesbian and gay couples. Only 32 percent of respondents said they would be â€śbotheredâ€ť if gay and lesbians could get a marriage license.
[Ed. Note -- Since press time, New Hampshire's governor has indicated he will sign the marriage bill, provided the legislature amends it to include certain protections for religious organizations and associations.]
More marriage wins sure to come
NATIONWIDE â€” Currently, marriage bills are pending in the New Jersey and New York legislatures, and the governors of both states have pledged to sign them once they reach their desks. The California Supreme Court is weighing a challenge to the discriminatory Proposition 8, brought by a broad array of civil rights organizations and other groups. Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, believes the chance of victory in the California legal battle has swung in the favor of freedom.
â€śI have always believed the California Supreme Court should strike down Prop 8 because the law is so overwhelmingly on our side,â€ť Kendell wrote in a blog post at www.nclrights.org. â€śBut I feared that other factors might result in an adverse decision. That fear has now been replaced by hope as courts and legislatures â€” as well as public opinion â€” have moved sharply in our direction.â€ť
As evidence Kendell cites a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll that found â€śa sharp shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage. Forty-nine percent said it should be legal for gay people to marryâ€ť â€” an 11-point increase from a similar poll conducted by the Post just three years ago.