Thursday, May 07, 2009


Updated New developments from the "bandwagon of love."

- Maine: Just Saturday, I reported that Maine's Senate has passed a bill establishing same-sex marriage and that the state's House would vote on it this week. In those few days, not only did the House pass it but now Governor John Baldacci has signed it, becoming the first governor in the country to sign such a bill in the absence of a court decision and making Maine the second state to meet the right wing's demand for same-sex marriage to be established in a state by legislative action.
The Maine law has not yet taken effect, and will face a steep hurdle before any weddings are held. Conservative groups have pledged to bring the measure to a statewide vote, and are expected to collect 55,000 signatures in the next three months to put the new law on the ballot in November. ...

The Maine Family Policy Council will lead the fight to block the law, said the group's executive director, Mike Heath.

He said he believes a large majority of Maine voters will reject gay marriage.
He may well be disappointed in that hope: Not only did the bill pass relatively easily and not only did it get the signature of a governor who not that long ago opposed same-sex marriage, but opinion in the state has clearly been moving and not in Heath's direction:
In 1998 and again in 2000, Maine legislators voted to expand the law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, but both times voters narrowly struck down the measure in statewide referendums. The last attempt to change the law, in 2005, succeeded.
I frankly expect it will succeed again - however, with the bitter experience of PropHate still fresh, complacency is inadvisable.

- New Hampshire: The state legislature has taken the last of several procedural votes and passed a bill for same-sex marriage. Governor John Lynch, who has waffled on what he'll do, now has five days to veto the bill, sign it, or let it become law without his signature. I predict he will do the latter but I can hope he'll do the right thing and sign it.

- New Jersey: The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger reported on Wednesday that gay rights advocates believe that the state will pass legislation this year allowing same-sex couples to marry. In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled that marriage discrimination was contrary to the state's constitution but left it up to the Legislature to decide how to remedy that. The Leg chose the civil unions route but now appears ready to go the whole way.

There is also - no surprise - an effort for a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman, but
Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality, said it's highly unlikely that lawmakers would ban gay marriage in this year's election.

There's no chance of a constitutional amendment. New Jersey is moving in the complete other direction, said Goldstein.
State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, chief sponsor of the gay marriage bill, says she expects it to pass by the end of this year. Governor Jon Corzine said in December that "I will sign marriage equality legislation when it reaches my desk."

Oh, and a passing observation:
John Tomicki of the New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage said there was no reason to change civil union laws to gay marriage other than to change the traditional meaning of the term.

If they have all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities of marriage, why do we want to redefine marriage? he said.
Well, turning the question back, if they have all the same benefits, protections, and responsibilities, what is the problem with calling those relationships marriages, Mr. Tomicki? Why are you so insistent on denying them the use of the term?

There is "no reason" other than to have a way to still consider same-sex couples as "other," as "different," as "them." No reason, that is, other than to maintain your last bastion of your bigotry.

- New York: Last month, Governor David Paterson introduced legislation in both the state Assembly and the state Senate that would allow same-sex marriage in the state. The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill soon and it is widely expected to pass. What's more, a Siena College poll last month found that 53% of New Yorkers support marriage for same-sex couples.

However, the bill's chances in the Senate are less certain. Chances did improve when Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos told his caucus they can vote their conscience, but despite that it remains unclear if there are enough votes. But if it does pass, there obviously is no reason to doubt that Paterson will sign it into law.

- Washington, DC: The DC City Council has given final approval to legislation that recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Mayor Adrian Fenty supported the bill and is expected to sign it. After he does, Congress will have 30 days to review the law and can reject it. However,
US Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat who is openly gay, said he expects congressional opponents of gay marriage to rally to repeal the city's decision, but doubts they'll get very far.
One reason for his confidence is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi said "I don’t think Congress should intervene" in the matter. Unhappily, she did that in the course of dodging a question about repealing the Defense of Marriage Act - but a step forward is still a step forward.

Updated to include the item about DC.

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