March 13, 2012

Same-sex marriage closer to November ballot

By Susan M. Cover
State House Bureau

AUGUSTA — A citizen initiative to allow same-sex couples to wed in Maine is likely headed to the November ballot.

The Maine House of Representatives unanimously voted this morning to indefinitely postpone the bill, which has the effect of sending it directly to voters. House Speaker Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, recognized Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, to make the motion. Cain is a supporter of gay-marriage.

“Democrats believe the people of Maine must decide this question,” Cain said. “We support the effort of the thousands of Maine people who signed the petitions to put this question before voters in November.  The people of Maine should have an opportunity to cast a direct vote on this matter of fairness and equality for all families.” 

The bill was sent to the Senate, which is expected to agree with the House's action.

The action by the House avoids a public hearing and a recorded vote by lawmakers.

In 2009, the Legislature, which was then controlled by Democrats, held a daylong hearing at the Augusta Civic Center where hundreds of people testified on both sides of the issue. The Legislature passed the bill and Gov. John Baldacci signed it into law.

It was later repealed by voters by a vote of 53-47 percent. This time around, gay-marriage supporters worked with the Republican controlled Legislature to have the bill go directly to voters in November. Citizen votes on gay marriage are expected in five states this year, including Maine.

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