Battle Lines Drawn on Marriage

(Cross-posted at the Augusta Insider)

As reported a few days ago, Stand for Marriage Maine submitted 100,000 signatures in support of the People’s Veto effort to repeal LD 1020. “It shows above all, that the people of Maine are overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage.” says Mike Hein of the Maine Family Values Policy Council (formerly the Christian Civic League of Maine). The supporters of same-sex marriage disagree with Hein’s characterization of Mainers views on the issue. No on 1/Protect Maine Equality (formerly Maine Freedom to Marry) collected 60,000 pledges from voters that they would be voting no on question one. A press release from No on 1 stated that:

Our NO on 1 volunteers and field staff have gone door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor. We’ve attended sports and public events and everywhere we go, Mainers understand what’s at stake this November. That’s why we announced yesterday that we’ve collected more than 60,000 pledges to vote NO on 1.

Support and opposition to same-sex marriage has not followed party lines. Governor Baldacci, who did not support same-sex marriage in the past, reportedly waited until LD 1020 had reached his desk before he decided to sign. Voting in the House and Senate did not go along expected party lines in every case either. Rep. Sheryl Briggs of Mexico and Rep. Mike Willette of Presque Isle were two House Democrats to vote against LD 1020. Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess of Cumberland and Sen. Peter Mills of Cornville were two Republicans who voted in favor of LD 1020. Sen. Mills explained his vote in a comment to the Augusta Insider.

I voted for the gay marriage bill as a matter of personal conscience. I see no harm in allowing the state to license marriage between members of the same sex. If a church takes a different view, then that is for its own members to decide.
On the same basis, I voted consistently to support the anti-discrimination bills that came before the Legislature several times before the law was finally approved at public referendum in November of 2005.
Sen. Mills went on to state that he would have rather the public decide the issue of same-sex marriage.

I have long thought that these issues should be decided by public referendum, but efforts to send them out to referendum were rejected in 2005 and again in 2009. When called upon to vote on the floor of the Senate, I simply voted what I thought was right. Many other Maine residents may disagree with my vote but that is why the issue should be decided in the ballot box.

Sen. Mills has been the only Republican gubernatorial candidate at this point to clearly support LD 1020, though nearly all Democratic candidates have shown support for the bill in one way or another. This could cost Mills the support of socially conservative Republicans, but given the number of moderates in both parties, and the highly riven GOP gubernatorial primary, this is not likely to sink Sen. Mills’ campaign.

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