Bangor council signs on to call for repeal of DOMA; renews Diamonds liquor, amusement licenses

Posted Feb. 11, 2013, at 10:53 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor City Council on Monday voted to join a list of cities and large employers in calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The city will sign an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the repeal of DOMA, a 1996 law that prevents the federal government from recognizing marriages between gay or lesbian couples for the purpose of federal programs or benefits, even if those couples are considered legally married by their home state.

In advance of the November 2012 election, the Bangor council passed a resolution in support of the ballot question that resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine.

Councilor Joe Baldacci said DOMA contradicts the actions of Maine and other states that have legalized gay marriage, and that contradiction creates two classes of married couples — one class that can receive federal benefits and one that is denied those same benefits.

Baldacci called DOMA “increasingly antiquated” and discriminatory.

Councilors Baldacci, Patricia Blanchette, Susan Hawes, David Nealley, Ben Sprague, James Gallant and Nelson Durgin voted in favor of signing onto the brief.

Councilors Pauline Civiello and Charlie Longo voted against the motion.

Civiello said she believed the issue was “personal” and that people who feel strongly about DOMA should reach out to their congressional delegates.

Other groups that signed onto the amicus brief include the cities of Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, and large employers, such as Google, Zynga, Starbucks and Microsoft.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the council voted to renew the liquor and special amusement licenses for Diamonds Gentleman’s Club without argument. Councilors postponed the vote during the previous regular council meeting after a pair of residents and a landlord from Schoolhouse Apartments raised concerns about the disturbances caused by patrons at the Harlow Street property across the street. One woman said during the Jan. 28 council meeting that she felt unsafe outside her home.

Jimmy Ellis, who represents Diamonds’ ownership group, Arayos LLC, since has met with interim Police Chief Peter Arno and owners of Schoolhouse Apartments, and come up with plans to remediate the problems. Those include having Diamonds cover the cost of posting a police officer in or near the parking lot on Friday and Saturday nights; converting the former tattoo parlor adjacent to Diamonds into a smoke parlor to keep people out of the parking lot; and possibly installing a new entryway at the back of the building, away from the neighbors.

“All these problems can’t be eliminated, but they can be minimized,” Ellis said after the meeting.

The efforts apparently satisfied the council, which approved the licenses without discussion.

Gallant thanked Ellis for working to come to a solution with neighbors and the city and for his “willingness to be upfront.”

The council also congratulated the Bangor Museum and History Center and Bangor High School for a pair of national awards they received for a 2011 project, “Exploring Historic Landscapes using [Geographic Information Systems]: The Great Bangor Fire of 1911.”

High schoolers collaborated with museum staff to create a series of posters in connection with the 100th anniversary of the fire that tore through the Queen City, leaving much of it in ruins. Each poster highlighted a different aspect of the fire, such as how drought and wind conditions in the months leading up to the fire contributed to its spread, and how different ethnic and economic groups were affected by the fire, according to Margaret Chernosky, a Bangor High School world geography teacher.

The projects received nods from the American Association for State and Local History, which gave the museum and high school a 2012 Award of Merit, as well as a 2013 History in Progress Award, which recognizes “outstanding accomplishments in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history,” according to the AASLH website.

The council also:

• Authorized the placement of a monument on the Bangor Waterfront recognizing the sister city relationship between Bangor and Harbin, China. The Chinese Language and Culture Center of Maine submitted the request for the monument and will be responsible for the creation, installation and maintenance costs of the monument.

• Accepted nearly $160,000 in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and Maine Department of Transportation to fill a canal at Bangor International Airport. The canal attracts hundreds of ducks during the year. Past efforts to remove the ducks, which present a hazard to aircraft, have failed, according to BIA Director Tony Caruso. When the canal is filled, the ducks are expected to find a safer place to wade.

• Recognized WABI TV 5, a CBS affiliate, for its 60th year broadcasting from Bangor.

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