John Baldacci, the Governor of Maine, has signed a law legalizing gay marriage.
“I have followed closely the debate on this issue,” Baldacci said. “I have listened to both sides, as they have presented their arguments during the public hearing and on the floor of the Maine Senate and the House of Representatives. I have read many of the notes and letters sent to my office, and I have weighed my decision carefully. I did not come to this decision lightly or in haste.”
The move represents a change in the governor’s thinking. “In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” Baldacci said. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”The new law also affirms that no particular church has to recognize a marriage that does not conform to its beliefs, and that no church is required to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Baldacci is the first governor to sign a same-sex marriage bill in absence of a preceding court decision, though there were other pressures. In late 2008, the Maine Marriage Alliance announced it would lead an effort to pass an amendment to the Maine Constitution that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.