Today, Maine’s governor signed into law a bill extending the right to marry to same-sex couples. (From a quick look at the Maine Constitution, art. IV, pt. 3, § 16, it appears that the law will not go into effect until about September 15, which is 90 days from the adjournment of the current session of the legislature, according to its web site.)
Maine is now the fifth state to recognize same-sex marriage, and this is the first time that a governor has signed such a bill into law without the compulsion of a court decision (recall that Vermont legalized same-sex marriage over the governor’s veto and that California’s governor vetoed the same-sex marriage bills passed by its legislature). In this regard, it’s worth quoting from the governor’s remarks, as there was some doubt about whether he would sign the bill given his previously expressed opposition to same-sex marriage:
â€œIn the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,”Governor Baldacci said.”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.”
â€œArticle I in the Maine Constitution states that â€˜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.'”
â€œThis 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.
â€œIt guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine’s civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government.”