Opposition – and counter proposals –
to a newly announced gay marriage bill in Maine is quickly forming.
Senator Dennis S. Damon's (Democrat)
gay marriage bill extends the responsibilities and benefits of
marriage to gay and lesbian couples and affirms a religious
institution's right to decide who to marry. The law would also
recognize legal gay marriages performed in other states. Such states
include fellow New England states Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“Today I have submitted an act to end
discrimination in civil marriage and to affirm religious freedom,”
Damon said at a Tuesday press conference to announce the bill.
Several Republicans quickly announced
their opposition to the bill.
The Republican Project, a grassroots
group that is committed to returning the Republican party “to its
traditional core values and proven conservative governance policies,”
announced on Friday it would fight for defeat of the gay marriage
“The Maine state Republican Party
platform is quite clear on this issue,” said Maine Republican
Project CEO Dean Scontras, who lost his Republican primary bid for a
Congressional seat last year. “So are the tenets of the Republican
Project. Therefore, we will work at a grassroots level, through our
electronic medium and within our membership, to work against Senator
Also opposing the measure is Rep. Josh
Tardy, the House Republican leader in Maine, who has announced he
will introduce legislation this session that would restrict marriage
to a heterosexual union by making it a constitutional amendment.
But Republican Representative Les
Fossel is attempting a different approach: He is sponsoring a bill
that expands the state's domestic partner registry.
Maine lawmakers passed a bill in 2004
to create a domestic partnership registry for both gay and straight
couples, putting the state in the category of states that offer some
legal protections to gay and lesbian couples.
That registry grants few guaranteed
protections beyond estate planning, but Fossel says his bill would
expand the language of the law to grant gay and lesbian couples the
same legal rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples.
“Currently, there are legal and
technical differences that create disadvantages for many Maine
families,” Fossel said. “My bill aims to remove these
differences from Maine law.”
Fossel said Damon's gay marriage bill
is too emotionally charged, saying he would prefer to find “a
“We don't need a hot, divisive debate
with siege guns,” he said. “Democracy is all about finding a
middle ground. This bill might not be perfect for everyone, but it
is the only bill with a chance of succeeding without immediately
triggering a referendum to repeal.”
Scontras suggested his opposition to
the gay marriage bill was based on its distraction from solving
“Among our growing membership, it
seems a bit of a concern that Senator Damon chose to introduce this
legislation when Maine faces one of the worst economic climates in
some time,” he said in a statement. “This will simply absorb
valuable legislative cycles that should be dedicated toward repairing
the economic situation of so many Mainers.”
Gay activists are pushing a six state
strategy to win gay marriage for the entire New England region.
Legislation to provide for gay marriage is being introduced this year
in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island. Gay and lesbian
couples can marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut.