[JURIST] Maine Governor John Baldacci [official website] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] a bill [materials] that will allow same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] to be performed in the state, making Maine the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the Maine House of Representatives [official website] voted 89-57 in favor of the legislation, which followed last week's approval by the Maine Senate [JURIST reports]. The legislation got final approval by the legislature Wednesday before going before the governor. Baldacci said:
In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. 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. It guarantees that Maine citizens will be treated equally under Maine’s civil marriage laws, and that is the responsibility of government.
The signing of the legislation came the same day the New Hampshire legislature gave final approval to a bill [HB 436 text] permitting same-sex marriage. Last week, the New Hampshire Senate [official website] voted 13-11 to approve [JURIST report] the bill. The New Hampshire House of Representatives [official website] approved the bill [JURIST report] in March by a vote of 186-179. The two differing versions of the bill were reconciled Wednesday and will now be presented to the governor. If approved, Rhode Island would be the only New England state that does not allow same-sex marriage.
Last month, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex marriage and the first to do so through a vote of the legislature, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa [JURIST reports] as the other states that allow same-sex marriage.