The Maine state Legislature Judiciary Committee is holding hearings today on two gay rights bills before several thousand people in the Augusta Convention Center. According to the Bangor Daily News, the crowd gave a standing ovation to state Senator Dennis Damon, who sponsored a bill that would legalize same sex marriage in the state.
Damon’s bill “repeals the provision that limits marriage to one man and one woman and replaces it with the authorization for marriage between any two persons that meet the other requirements of Maine law” and also recognizes all marriages performed outside the state. The second bill addressed in the hearings would extend the “rights, protections and benefits” of married couples to domestic partnerships in the state.
According to the Associated Press, it is unclear whether Maine Governor John Baldacci would sign the bill if it is passed by the legislature. A recent poll showed 47.3 percent of Maine residents support the same sex marriage bill and that 49.5 percent oppose the legislation, reported the Associated Press.
If the legislation is approved, Maine would be the fifth state to permit same sex marriage in the United States after Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont. Legislation was also introduced last week in New York by Governor David Paterson that would legalize same sex marriage.