Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gay Opponents Targeting Maine, Prepare Pre-Emptive Strike at NJ


Before you start rushing off to Maine to get married, the new marriage equality law hasn't quite cleared all its hurdles. Though it's supposed to take effect in 90 days, there's a chance it will never happen.

Marriage equality opponents, the conservative Maine Marriage Alliance, are wasting no time. Just yesterday, Thursday, they filed a challenge, an attempt to block the new law with Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. The challenge was filed under the state’s “people’s veto” provision.

The signature-collecting deadline will probably fall in mid-September, Dunlap said.

Ellen Andersen on Bilerico Project explains a "people's veto" further, and its threat to marriage equality in Maine:
Laws in Maine usually go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns (somewhere around the end of June). But before that 90 day period is over, opponents of a law can try to gather enough signatures--about 55,000 right now-- to force the measure to a public vote. If opponents get those signatures in on time, implementation of the law will be suspended until a referendum can be held. This provision is commonly known as a "people's veto."
Equality Maine reports that opponents are already geared up to gather signatures to force a ballot initiative against marriage equality. They are asking for support to build a strong campaign against them.


A coalition of socially conservative groups is pressing the New Jersey legislature to ask voters in 2010 to amend the state constitution to bar same-sex marriage.
New Jersey lawmakers would have to approve a constitutional amendment in each of two consecutive years in order to put the question to voters. So far, the Democratically-controlled legislature has rebuffed calls to advance the proposed amendment.

But the legislature also has stalled on taking up a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry.
Members of the conservative coalition, New Jersey Family Policy Council and New Jersey Coalition to Preserve and Protect Marriage, held a press conference yesterday saying that same-sex couples already have civil unions, have the same benefits of married couples, so why do they need the term marriage?

Civil rights groups countered this amounted to separate but equal. A commission established by the state last year held three public hearings, and after hearing the testimonies of couples in civil unions, agreed.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, who sponsors New Jersey's marriage equality bill, said the Supreme Court has "already said that same-sex partners are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of marriage" -- and most lawmakers agree with it.

"I don't think the majority of the Legislature believes we should have a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. They already voted for domestic partnerships and civil unions, and gay marriage is the next logical step. We don't have to expand rights; we're almost just changing the name," said Weinberg.

Weinberg predicted her bill would pass "by the end of this year."

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