NEW ENGLAND – Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage made mixed gains in Maine and New Hampshire this week, with the eventual outcome in each state still very much in doubt.
Tuesday, Maine’s Joint Committee on Judiciary vote 11-2-1 in favor of legislation that would permit same-sex couples to marry under state law, with one committee member voted for the legislation with a proposed amendment that would place the measure before voters if it is enacted into law. The vote came after an hourlong hearing at the state capitol in Augusta, during which residents argued for and against allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
In New Hampshire, the state Senate will decide Wednesday whether to approve a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and send it to the governor. On Thursday, by a vote of 3-2, the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee said the bill was “inexpedient” to legislate, and recommended that the full senate defeat it.
According to Reuters, thirteen of the state’s 24 senators are needed to kill the bill. If the senate splits at 12-12 or if a majority wants to keep it alive, a motion to pass could be entertained. Even if the bill passes, however, “a likely veto by the governor could derail any Granite State gay marriage law.” Senate Minority Leader Peter Bragdon has said he expects all 10 Republican senators to oppose it.
According to the New Hampshire Democratic blog BlueHampshire.com, two Democrats are likely to vote against the bill, a third, Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester was leaning the same way, three Democrats are undecided and the remaining eight are in favor.
According to an article in the Bangor Daily News, Maine legislators who oppose the same-sex marriage measure predict that if it is passed by the Legislature, it will inevitably wind before the voters in the form of a referendum, which they believe would be defeated.
“I think the Senate will reverse this,” the Rev. Bob Emrich of the Maine Marriage Initiative said . “I’m extremely and gravely disappointed but I’m not very surprised.”
The Human Rights Campaign, which has had a field organizer on the ground in Maine for the past three months working with Equality Maine to build support for the marriage legislation, praised the Joint Committee on Judiciary for its vote.
“This is an exciting vote, and it’s great to see strong support for the principle that all loving, committed couples in Maine ought to have the equal right to marry,” HRC president Joe Solmonese said. “We congratulate the committee, as well as Equality Maine for its great work to build support for equality. We hope that this bill will soon pass the Senate and House and be enacted into law. April has been a great month for equality, and we’re thrilled to see Maine take action to become the latest state to move toward recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples.”