Marriage Equality Spreads

Patricia Weber

The year 2012 is beginning with several state governments putting gay marriage on the front burner of their legislative agenda. Gay marriage is being put on the ballot in some states.

If these states pass gay marriage bills or vote for gay marriage, they will be joining New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Maine: This is the only New England state that does not have civil unions or gay marriage legalized. EqualityMaine, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Maine Women’s Lobby and supporters have collected over 105,000 petition signatures to force a referendum in November to allow the gay marriage bill. Maine’s Legislature approved gay marriage in 2009 but opponents put the question before voters again and the law was overturned (53 percent to 47 percent). EqualityMaine believes that the referendum will pass this year. According to EqualityMaine’s polling, Maine voters now support marriage equality with a 54 percent majority. Maine would be the first state to enact gay marriage through the ballot box.

Maryland:  After stalling in last year’s legislative session, lawmakers in Maryland are reconsidering gay marriage. Maryland’s Democratic legislators have had problems with gaining support because influential ministers from around the state have vocally opposed the gay marriage bill. State Delegate Don Dwyer is one of the main opponents who says he will favor a bill allowing civil unions but not marriage because, “It’s not about rights and benefits, it’s not about love, it’s about educating children into the homosexual life style.” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake disagrees with Dwyer, stating, “It’s about getting over prejudice and making sure that we protect families.” If the gay marriage bill manages to pass the Maryland House and Senate, Gov. Martin O’Malley has expressed that he will sign the bill.

New Jersey: In 2010, the New Jersey Senate defeated a marriage equality bill. Now, New Jersey Democrats are trying to reintroduce the bill in the Legislature. Republican Gov. Chris Christie has said that he will veto the bill, because he would rather see the measure go in front of the voters. Democrats will need to have votes from New Jersey Republican legislators to override any veto.

Washington State: On Jan. 4, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced that she would be introducing a marriage equality bill to the Washington Legislature. At a public press conference, Gov. Gregoire said, “Some say domestic partnerships are the same as marriage. That’s a version of the discriminatory ‘separate but equal’ argument.” Several days later, Democratic legislators were scrambling to find the 25 votes needed for the bill to pass in the Senate. After the first hearing on the bill, Senator Mary Margaret Haugen became the twenty-fifth senator to announce she will be voting for the gay marriage bill, which makes the bill’s passage in the June legislative session almost certain.



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