(NECN/WMTW) - Maine Governor John Baldacci signed a bill this afternoon making the state the fifth in the country to allow gay marriage.
The governor signed the legislation shortly after the Maine legislature passed it.
Four other states currently allow same-sex marriages. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa have been ordered by the courts to do so, and Connecticut has enacted a law codifying a court ruling. Vermont passed a gay marriage law in April over the governor's objection.
"I think Maine people should be proud of the way this has been handled," said Baldacci.
"Under the Constitution, we are all the same," said Baldacci in referencing his personal feelings about this matter. "Times have changed."
(AP Photo) Gretchen Robbins, of Winthrop, Maine, smiles while hugging Sarah Reece of Los Angeles, after Maine's House members gave final approval to a same-sex marriage bill at the State House in Augusta, Maine, on Tuesday, May 5, 2009.
Complete statement below the fold.
From the Governor's website:
Governor John E. Baldacci today signed into law LD 1020, An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.
“I have followed closely the debate on this issue. I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully,” Governor Baldacci said. “I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste.”
“I appreciate the tone brought to this debate by both sides of the issue,” Governor Baldacci said. “This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question.”
“In 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.”
“Article I in the Maine Constitution states that ‘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.’”
“This 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.
“It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine’s civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government.”
“Even as I sign this important legislation into law, I recognize that this may not be the final word,” Governor Baldacci said. “Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people.”
“While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do,” Governor Baldacci said.