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Legislative battle takes shape

Gay marriage
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  March 18, 2009

As we reported on the About Town blog last week, the list of Maine's gay-marriage bill co-sponsors — i.e., those legislators lending the most robust support to the measure — was released last Thursday afternoon. There aren't any big surprises among the 64 names signed on to the bill that would legalize same-sex civil marriage, although supporters were happy to have "members that have more traditionally moderate voting records" on the list, according to Maine Civil Liberties Union executive director Shenna Bellows. Just one example is Senator John Nutting (D-Leeds).

"There's also diversity in terms of geography," says Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine. "That's because marriage is not an urban-versus-rural issue." To that end, along with lots of Portland and South Portland names, there are representatives from Bangor, Skowhegan, and Calais on the list.

State senator Dennis Damon (D-Trenton) announced his intent to file the "Act To Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom" in January. Lobbyists from the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition spent the next few weeks talking with legislators — some with longtime commitments to gay-marriage rights, and some who were new to the issue. The legislative leadership opened up the bill for more co-sponsors (typically only 10 names can be on the list). Now, the coalition will shift its focus to wooing members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary (several members of the committee are already co-sponsors).

A public hearing is scheduled for April 24; the committee usually takes action on a bill soon after such a hearing. Should the judiciary committee approve the measure, the next battle will be in the Senate.

And on this front, Bellows is optimistic. The co-sponsor list "bodes well for our prospects in the Senate," she says. "To have unity from the House caucus with significant geographical and political diversity creates support for senators that we know want to do the right thing."

Related: Legislature will take up gay marriage this session, Marriage activists get closure, look forward, Republicans step up to defend equality, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Politics, Culture and Lifestyle, Maine,  More more >
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