Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Maine became the fifth state to recognize same-sex marriage on Wednesday as Gov. John Baldacci signed a newly passed bill making such unions legal.
Mr. Baldacci, a Democrat, had previously opposed same-sex marriage, but said in April that he would be keeping an open mind as legislation moved through the state House and Senate. He acknowledged his change of heart at Wednesday's bill-signing ceremony.
In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions, Mr. Baldacci said in a statement. 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.
Opponents of same-sex marriage had flooded the governor's office with letters and e-mails asking him to stick to his position on the issue. The law is scheduled to take effect in September, but plans are already in the works to reverse it by putting the issue before Maine voters in a referendum.
Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, which opposed the same-sex marriage bill, reaffirmed Wednesday that his organization would work to place a referendum on the November ballot.
We are not surprised he signed, Mr. Heath said in an e-mail. To say we are disappointed would be too kind.
Unlike in gay-marriage states such as Massachusetts and Iowa, the referendum process in Maine is fairly friendly to citizen initiatives. Those working to put a so-called people's veto on the November ballot would need to gather 55,087 signatures by mid-September. Such efforts are often successful: Last year, voters overturned a tax on soft drinks, beer and wine.
A poll published in April found 47.3 percent of Maine residents favored same-sex marriage, while 49.5 percent were opposed, with the rest undecided.
The governor signed the same-sex marriage bill just one day after the House approved it on a 89-57 vote. The vote in the state Senate passed by 21-13.
Maine is the third state this year to agree to permit same-sex marriages. In April, the Iowa Supreme Court declared that the state's marriage statute violated the Iowa Constitution's equal-protection clause. Days later, the Vermont legislature overrode Gov. Jim Douglas' veto, enacting a …