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Maine's Senate passed a bill legalizing gay marriage yesterday, Reuters reports, putting the state a step closer to becoming the fifth to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill reportedly redefines marriage as "the legal union of two people" (not limited to one between a man and a woman).
However, the state's House of Representatives still has to approve the measure, and even if passed, the legislation may face an uncertain future at the hands of Maine's governor, Democrat John Baldacci. He has not taken an official position on the bill but has opposed gay marriage in the past, although he has favored the idea of civil unions.
The Reuters story indicates that the push in Maine is part of gay rights advocates' coordinated strategy to have all six New England states legalize the institution for all couples. More specifically, the goal is to bring same-sex marriage to all of New England by 2012. So far, Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachussets have legalized gay marriage, and New Hampshire's gay-marriage legalization bill currently only awaits signing by Democrat Governor John Lynch. Advocates thus noted that should the Maine legislation come into law, Rhode Island could very well be the last New England state that hasn't legalized gay marriage.
However, the New York Times did point out a few potential roadblocks (or at least detours), one being that New Hampshire's governor might actually veto the bill in that state, and another that a bill introduced in Rhode Island is "unlikely to be acted on this year." Furthermore, the NYT piece noted "[i]f the Maine Legislature approves same-sex marriage, opponents will try to collect enough signatures to suspend the law until a public referendum can be held -- probably in June 2010 -- asking voters if they want to overturn it."