From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Maine's Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill into law allowing same-sex marriage in his state. Maine becomes the fifth state to do so. The other four: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont.
"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions," Baldacci said in a statement. "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."
There is serious legislative activity to approve gay marriage in DC (where last night the city council voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere), New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York.
Also, in California, there's a state Supreme Court challenge to Prop. 8.
As we wrote this morning, it's example #457 that we're long removed from 2004.
Here's Baldacci's full statement:
I have followed closely the debate on this issue. I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste.
I appreciate the tone brought to this debate by both sides of the issue. This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question.
In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.
Article I in the Maine Constitution states that 'no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor be denied the equal protection of the laws, nor be denied the enjoyment of that person's civil rights or be discriminated against.'
This new law does not force any religion to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs. It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State," Governor Baldacci said. It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine's civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government. Even as I sign this important legislation into law, I recognize that this may not be the final word. Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people.
While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do.