Maine Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage
On November 6, 2012, Maine voters approved gay marriage. The measure was listed as Question 1 on the ballot and allowed voters to decide whether or not Maine should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The measure was approved by 53 percent of voters, reversing a referendum that lost by a narrow margin in 2009.
Protect Marriage Maine opposed the measure. The organization describes itself as a “bi-partisan statewide grassroots coalition” made up of organizations, pastors and individuals who believe in the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
History of Gay Marriage in Maine
In Maine, marriage was defined as a union between “one man and one woman” in 1997. The new law will not redefine marriage, but it mandates that the words man and woman as applied to marriage and familial relationships must be interpreted as gender neutral.
In 2009, Senator Dennis Damon introduced a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in Maine. The bill allowed the right of refusal to perform a same-sex wedding to anyone authorized to officiate a marriage, regardless of their religious beliefs or affiliation. In May 2009, Governor John Baldacci signed the bill into law, becoming the first governor to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law without a court order. Opponents of the law forced a referendum that put the measure on the ballot in November 2009, which was opposed by 53 percent of voters.
Ballot Initiative Lets Voters Decide
In June 2011, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and EqualityMaine announced their intent to put a voter initiative supporting same-sex marriage on the state’s November 2012 ballot. In order to put a citizen initiative on the ballot, they needed to obtain 57,277 signatures in support of the measure. More than 105,000 people signed the petition to allow voters to decide whether to legalize gay marriage in Maine.
The Secretary of State’s Office will have 20 days to certify the votes. Once certified, Governor Paul LePage will have 10 days to approve them. Once approved by the governor, the constitution mandates a 30-day waiting period before the law can take effect. Same-sex couples will likely be able to marry in Maine beginning in January 2013.
Maine allows cousins to marry, but only if the couple is able to provide a certificate of genetic counseling. Even though same-sex couples are unable to produce children, the state will also require same-sex couples to receive genetic counseling prior to marriage.