A gay marriage bill received a strong endorsement today by Maine's Judiciary Committee. The committee strongly recommended the House and Senate approve the bill.

Eleven of the 14 members voted in favor of the bill, two voted against it and one, Republican Senator David Hastings of Fryeburg, wanted to send it to the voters, reports the Bangor Daily News.

The vote comes after the committee held a heated debate on the bill attended by nearly 4,000 people last week. Lawmakers changed the event's initial location from Cony High School to the Augusta Civic Center to accommodate the large crowd.

Supporters of the bill – who far outnumbered detractors – cheered when its primary sponsor, Senator Dennis S. Damon, delivered his opening remarks.

“This bill is fair. This bill's time has come,” Damon, a Democrat from Trenton, told the crowd, who responded with a standing ovation. “It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us.”

Advocates continue to lobby Governor John Baldacci, a Democrat, who has recently ratcheted down his previously stated gay marriage opposition to neutrality. This morning, they delivered 10,000 postcards to the governor's office asking him to support the bill.

The legislation is expected to sail through the House, where Democrats far outnumber Republicans, but will likely encounter turbulence in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow majority.