With the enactment of the Maine bill, gay-rights activists have moved remarkably close to their goal of making same-sex marriage legal throughout New England just five years after Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to allow it.
But gay couples may not be able to wed in Maine anytime soon. The law would normally go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, which is usually in late June. But opponents have vowed to pursue a “people’s veto,” or a public referendum allowed in Maine to ask voters if they want to overturn the law.
The opponents would need to collect about 55,000 signatures within 90 days of the Legislature adjourning to get the question on the ballot, and if they did, the law would be suspended until a referendum could be held. That would be in November at the earliest, and more likely, in June.
Further south, the AP reports “the city council in the nation’s capital voted Tuesday to recognize same-sex marriages from states that approve them,
a step that could propel the emotional issue into Congress and draw Democrats into a culture-wars battle with each other.
President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders responded to the 12-1 vote by the District of Columbia Council with near silence – hoping to avoid aggravating Democratic factions already at odds over that issue and more.
Republicans, usually willing to exploit differences between Democrats, also barely reacted to the council’s gay-marriage decision. GOP leaders and their aides, asked whether anyone will try to use the decision as a wedge issue, said they were preoccupied by matters such as the economic downturn and swine flu.
Gay-marriage supporters greeted the vote with applause, but they were outnumbered at city hall by outraged opponents, including many black ministers.