AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- A legislative hearing to extend gay marriage to Maine took on the atmosphere of a religious revival Wednesday as ministers made impassioned speeches for and against the bill before thousands of cheering spectators packed into a civic arena.And on the bill's chances:
Gay couples also took turns pleading for recognition of their partnerships, while opponents warned that state sanctioning of same-sex marriages would fracture a basic building block of society.
The Judiciary Committee hearing drew so much interest that traffic became snarled early in the day. Gay marriage supporters hoping to build on momentum in the region arrived wearing red, and they gave a standing ovation to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Dennis Damon, as he opened the hearing. Police said it drew 3,500 to 4,000 people.
"This bill is fair. This bill's time has come," Damon, D-Trenton, said to a roar of approval. "It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us."
Damon's proposal - backed by more than 60 legislative co-sponsors - would repeal a state law that limits marriage to a man and a woman and replace it with one that authorizes marriage between any two people.
The marriage effort's prospects in Maine are uncertain. The Legislature could approve it or reject it, or the state's voters could have the final say. Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, who previously opposed the idea, now says he is keeping an open mind.Read the rest of the AP article.
The Legislature has the option of sending the issue to voters in a referendum. Or, if the measure becomes law, opponents could initiate a "people's veto" effort.
One of the most dramatic moments in the public hearing that I witnessed was when an older man took the mike and said, "Marriage will give homosexuals unfettered access to children to molest them."
At this point, every supporter wearing red, including those who oppose same-sex marriage but didn't want to be seen in support of such a bigoted statement, stood up from their seats and turned their back on the man.
Now only if we, the LGBT population, could help those who oppose the bill but stood up realize that their refusal to recognize LGBT relationships as equal to marriage is as hurtful to us as that bigoted man's statement.
The hearings will continue until 8pm EST/5pm PST. If you live in Maine, go now! Equality Maine just sent out a call that they need more support.
You can watch it LIVE on Unite the Fight.
Image: AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach