You could say it's California, 2005 all
over again. Except this time, it might be two states that wait on
word from their governors on gay marriage bills.
Gay rights advocates are overjoyed to
be on the brink of securing the right to marry for gay and lesbian
couples in two additional states. Unfortunately, neither state –
New Hampshire nor Maine – has a governor that supports gay
In 2005, the California state Assembly
passed a gay marriage bill with no votes to spare. Its governor,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said that he believed the issue
should be decided either by a vote of the people or a court decision,
and rejected the measure. Two years later, the governor vetoed a
second attempt by the Assembly.
Gay marriage in New Hampshire and Maine
may also rest in the hands of their governors.
Senators in New Hampshire dismissed the
recommendation of its Judiciary Committee and approved a bill to
legalize gay marriage on a 13 to 11 vote Wednesday. Last month, the
House narrowly passed the measure.
Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, has
said he opposes gay marriage but has remained quiet on whether he
would veto the measure should it reach his desk. Lynch does have the
option of allowing the bill to become law without his signature.
Last month, Vermont lawmakers stunned
the nation when they legalized gay marriage over the objections of
Governor Jim Douglas, becoming the first state to do so
legislatively, instead of by court order.
Overriding a Lynch veto, however, does
not appear to be in the cards for New Hampshire, where both chambers
of the Legislature barely scratched up a majority.
In New Hampshire, Governor Lynch, like
Schwarzenegger before him, will be the final arbiter on the issue.
A day after the New Hampshire
Legislature passed its gay marriage bill, Senators in Maine followed
suit with a 21 to 14 vote.
The bill now heads back to the House
where it enjoys the support of 55 co-sponsors, including House
Speaker Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven. The House could
take up the bill as early as Tuesday.
And if House members pass the
legislation as expected, Governor John Baldacci will be in the same
position as Governor Lynch: A Democrat, opposed to gay marriage,
with a gay marriage bill on his desk ready to be signed into law.
Baldacci's tone on the issue has
softened up a bit of late. He recently recanted his anti-gay
marriage stance, saying he would keep an open mind.
According to PamsHouseBlend.com,
a blog dedicated to LGBT topics, Governor Baldacci said on Wednesday
that he has been impressed by proponents of gay marriage, adding: “I
was opposed to this for a long time, but people evolve, people change
as time goes by.”
How close events in New Hampshire and
Maine resemble those in California, the first state to legislatively
approve a gay marriage bill only to have it crumble with the stroke
of its governor's pen, remains to be seen. In the meantime,
advocates on both sides of the issue say they will aggressively lobby