Same-sex marriage in Maine
|Legal status of
*Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage in Maine became legal on December 29, 2012. The bill for legalization was approved by voters, 53-47 percent, on November 6, 2012, as Maine, Maryland and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Election results were certified by the Maine Secretary of State's office and the Governor of Maine on November 29.
The 2012 referendum was a reversal of action on a similar bill three years earlier. On May 6, 2009, a bill to allow same-sex marriage in Maine was signed into law, by Governor John Baldacci following legislative approval. Opponents of the bill successfully petitioned for a referendum before the law went into effect; voters rejected the law on November 3, 2009 in a "people's veto." Until the referendum result rejected the law, it appeared that Maine would be the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage through the legislative process with a governor's signature, rather than following a judicial ruling. Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by statute, but its legislature did so by overriding its governor's veto.
In January 2009, Maine state Senator Dennis Damon introduced a bill titled, "An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom" to allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine. The public hearing took place on April 22 at the Augusta Civic Center because of high levels of interest. The legislation extended the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages to any "person authorized to join persons in marriage" rather than to clergy only. It did not require that such refusals be based on religious beliefs. The Act also maintained the requirement for genetic counseling in marriage between first cousins of the opposite sex and expanded it to include first cousins of the same sex, despite the inability of persons of the same sex to conceive a child together.
On April 28, 2009, the Joint Committee on Judiciary endorsed a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry. The vote was 11 in favor, 2 against, and 1 recommending that the issue be sent to the voters via referendum. On April 30, 2009, the Senate approved the bill 20-15 in a preliminary vote accepting the Judiciary Committee's majority "Ought To Pass" report. That same day, Senators rejected an amendment that would send the marriage-equality question to voters in a referendum and passed the bill by a final vote of 21-14. On May 5, 2009, the House of Representatives passed the bill 89-58. The bill was then sent back to the Senate for a final vote on enactment.
On May 6, 2009, Governor Baldacci signed the bill into law. Baldacci became the first governor in the nation to sign a same-sex marriage law. The law was due to take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourned.
The day after the Governor signed the Act, opponents of same-sex marriage launched a campaign to repeal it through voter referendum. The campaign was successful in placing the question on the ballot, and on November 3, 2009, it passed by a vote of 53% to 47%, repealing the law.
On June 30, 2011, EqualityMaine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced plans to place a voter initiative in support of same-sex marriage on Maine's November 2012 ballot. The title of the citizen initiative is "An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom", and the text of their proposed ballot question was:
Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?
On July 27, 2012, Secretary of State Charlie Summers released the final wording of the ballot question. The question on the November ballot read:
Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?
On January 26, 2012, supporters delivered over 105,000 petition signatures for the initiative to the Secretary of State's office, exceeding the minimum of 57,277 signatures required for initiatives in the state. The Secretary of State announced on February 23 that the office verified 85,216 signatures, qualifying it for the November 2012 ballot.
The 2012 campaign to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Maine was led by a group called Mainers United for Marriage. Several groups had also formed in opposition.
On November 6, 2012, in a reversal of the vote three years earlier, Maine became one of the first U.S. states to approve same-sex marriage through a ballot initiative and the fifth New England state to legalize same-sex marriage. The results were a reverse of those seen on the 2009 referendum, with 53 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed. Maryland and Washington voters also approved same-sex marriage the same day.
The law took effect on December 29, 2012, 30 days after the election results were certified by Governor LePage on November 29. The 29th being a Saturday, most town and city offices would not be open until Monday, December 31, to issue marriage licenses. However, Augusta and Gardiner announced that they would open with limited hours on the 29th to issue licenses, . The Brunswick Town Clerk stated that they would issue licenses from 9 AM to noon that day, but by appointment only. The City of Portland announced that they would open City Hall at 12:01 AM on the 29th to issue marriage licenses and perform weddings. City spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said that City Hall would be open until 3:01, but that anyone in line before then would be given service. Additionally, Portland and other communities who planned to be open stated that any couple who wanted a marriage license that day would be given one, not just same-sex couples.
Some municipalities, such as Farmington, Lewiston, and Auburn, said they would not open on the 29th, due to little demand in those locations. Some also stated that they could not afford to open, or saw no need to open just because the law was changed.
The first same-sex couple married under the law was Steven Bridges and Michael Snell of Portland, who married at Portland City Hall at 12:25 AM.
In the twelve months that followed the implementation of same-sex marriage laws in Maine, a total of 1530 same-sex couples married, according to state's office of data, research and vital statistics. This comprised 16% of all marriages recorded in Maine in that time. Marriages between women outpaced marriages between men by a tally of 970-560.
A May 2011 poll conducted by Goodwin Simon Strategic Research found that 53% of Maine voters were in favor of legalization of same-sex marriage, 39% were against.
An October 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 51% of Maine voters thought same-sex marriage should be legal, while 42% thought it should be illegal and 8% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 82% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 46% supporting same-sex marriage, 36% supporting civil unions, 17% opposing all legal recognition and 1% not sure.
A March 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 54% of Maine voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 41% opposed it and 5% were not sure.
According to a poll conducted between March 31 and April 2, 2012 by the Maine People's Resource Center, 58.2% of registered voters support allowing same-sex couples to marry, 39.9% oppose it.
A September 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 52% of Maine voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 40% opposed it and 8% were not sure.
A November 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 53% of Maine voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 42% opposed it and 5% were not sure.
A January 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 53% of Maine voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 43% opposed it and 4% were not sure.
An August 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 53% of Maine voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 38% opposed it and 9% were not sure.
A November 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 54% of Maine voters thought same-sex marriage should be allowed, while 37% thought it should not be allowed and 9% were not sure.
A UCLA research study from February 2009 estimated that extending marriage to same-sex couples in Maine would have a positive impact on the state's economy and budget. The study found that same-sex weddings and associated tourism would generate $60 million in additional spending in Maine over three years, creating 1,000 new jobs. The state would see an increase of $3.6 million in revenues over the next three years, resulting from increased sales tax revenues of approximately $3.1 million and new marriage license fees of $500,000. In calculating the net benefit to the state, the study approximated that half of Maine's 4,644 same-sex couples, or 2,316 couples, would marry in the first three years that marriage is available to them. The study also estimated that approximately 15,657 same-sex couples from other states would come to Maine to marry.
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