AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine House today will register its first votes on a same-sex marriage bill, and its prospects appear good given heavy co-sponsorship by House members and momentum from last week’s Senate vote in favor of the measure.
The bill, which won a 21-14 vote of approval in the Senate on Thursday, has 64 co-sponsors, 55 of them representatives. Sponsorship is overwhelmingly Democratic, the majority party in both chambers. There are 95 Democrats in the 151-member House.
“With 50-plus co-sponsors, we feel cautiously optimistic it will be a very good vote,” Shenna Bellows of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, a leading supporter of the bill, said Monday.
Opponents were making no such claims but did hold open the likelihood of a people’s veto campaign to repeal the measure should the Legislature enact it and Gov. John Baldacci sign it into law. Baldacci, a Democrat, remained undecided Monday on the proposal. He has opposed gay marriage in the past.
“Should it go to the governor, there’s a possibility he would veto it and we would ask him to veto it,” said Marc Mutty of the Catholic Diocese of Maine. As for the bill’s House prospects, Mutty said, “We have not worked the House very aggressively. So it’s more of a wild card for us.”
Mutty said there has been some discussion of amendments, but as of Monday there was no concrete plan to introduce any during today’s House debate.
Four states already have approved same-sex marriages: Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa by court orders and Vermont through legislation. New Hampshire’s Legislature, like Maine’s, is considering a gay-marriage bill.
In Maine last week, the Senate turned down a proposal to amend the bill by sending the question to voters and approved the bill as it stands. It would give state recognition to any two people getting married, rather than to just one man and one woman as under present law. The bill faces an additional Senate vote in addition to House votes.
Even if the measure passes as is, opponents are widely expected to organize a campaign under Maine’s people’s veto law to force a repeal referendum. Polls have shown Mainers to be split on the question.