Shenna Bellows,
ACLU of Maine
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January 13, 2009

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

I’m 33, single, and I want to get married. But I don’t intend to do so until all the people I love can too under the law. With the work of a team of dedicated advocates, this year Maine will become the third New England state to legalize civil marriage for same-sex couples. And we’ll be first in the country to pass civil marriage through the legislature…and keep it.

Today I stood with a brave group of gay and lesbian couples, one amazing legislator, clergy, and an impressive array of civil rights groups to introduce “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.” All loving, committed couples deserve the dignity and respect as well as the legal protections that marriage brings.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Dennis Damon (D-Hancock), a former schoolteacher, commercial fisherman and Maine High School “Baseball Coach of the Year.”

Democrats have a 20-15 majority in the State Senate and a 95-54 majority in the House. Some House Republicans are backing a constitutional amendment to ban marriage for gays and lesbians, but we’re hearing quiet support from unexpected allies on the right.

Of course, passing a marriage equality bill through the legislature is only the first step toward ending discrimination against gay and lesbian families. Maine has a referendum process by which legislation can be overturned. The good news is, our coalition started organizing two years ago around this issue, and we’re ready to win a referendum challenging marriage. We’ve identified 20 percent of our voters already, and organizers are on the ground now showing our video and signing up volunteers.

Our steering committee includes Maine civil rights veteran Pat Peard and the Executive Directors of our four lead organizations: EqualityMaine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the Maine Women’s Lobby

We’ve been joined by the NAACP — Portland Branch, Maine Children’s Alliance, a whole host of progressive groups, and over 140 clergy from 14 denominations from the Maine Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry.

You can sign up to help at Join us on Facebook and Twitter too. This is not my grandmothers’ campaign — although both of them, including the one who voted for John McCain, support this bill.

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