Lawmakers in Maine approved a gay
marriage bill, becoming the fourth Legislature to do so.
House members passed Senator Dennis S.
Damon's gay marriage bill on an 89 to 57 vote. Senators approved the bill
last Thursday with a 21 to 14 vote.
With an 85 to 62 vote, House members
also rejected an amendment that would have sent the question of gay
marriage directly to the voters.
Only three other states have approved
gay marriage legislation: California, Vermont and New Hampshire.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation
twice. But last month, Vermont became the first state to
legislatively approve gay marriage after lawmakers passed a gay
marriage bill over the objections of its governor, Jim Douglas.
The bill now heads back to the Senate
for its final approval.
The Legislature's actions place
Governor John Baldacci, who favors civil unions over marriage for gay
and lesbian couples, in a tight spot. The Democratic governor
backtracked a bit on his opposition to gay nuptials in January when
the legislation was introduced.
“I'm not prepared to say I support
gay marriage today, but I will consider what I hear as the
Legislature works to find the best way to address discrimination,”
Republican Minority Whip Phillip Curtis
of Madison labeled the bill “A radical redefinition of marriage”
in calling for its defeat on the House floor.
Representative Jim Martin, an openly
gay Democrat, urged members to pass the legislation so that he could
upgrade his own 10-year-old commitment ceremony to marriage.
marriage foes have already announced they will push for repeal.
Lawmakers in New York and Rhode Island
are considering similar legislation.