March 18, 2010

Nearly 4,000 turn out for hearing on same-sex marriage


UPDATE: 12:07 P.M.

AUGUSTA -- Nearly 4,000 people gathered today in the Augusta Civic Center for a hearing on a bill to legalize gay marriage in Maine.

Dozens of members of the public have spoken for and against the bill, LD 1020. At times, testimony was tearful. At other times, testimony evoked tears among those gathered.

Members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee heard first from the sponsor of LD 1020, Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, and then from some fellow lawmakers both supporting his bill and opposing it.

“Today is one of the most meaningful days of my legislative career,” Damon said. “Rarely do we as legislators have the opportunity and privilege to introduce legislation that so wholly corrects discrimination.”

Among the legislators speaking against the bill was Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville.

“I believe the basis of our society is our families, when a man and woman unite as one, they become a family,” Davis said. “When a man and woman come together, they create children. This can never occur with gay couples. It is impossible for sperm to turn to an egg or an egg to turn to a sperm.”

A number of members of the public spoke against the bill, including Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Maine.

“Please remember that marriage is not simply an economic compact. In nearly every culture it’s a social institution,” said Malone.

Supporters included Sam Putnam, a 14-year-old Portland resident who came to the podium with his mother and her partner.

“I’m stuck saying my mom’s partner, when really, I should have the right to call her my stepmom,” said Putnam. “Our family deserves this right, just like any other family. Really, we shouldn’t even have to ask -- we are all human beings.”

The hearing is set to continue into the night, with hundreds expected to testify.

9:20 A.M.

AUGUSTA--Sen. Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland, opened today's same-sex marriage hearing at 9:20.

Lawmakers are now introducing themselves to applause from the crowd, estimated to be at nearly 4,000.

The hearing is expected to continue into tonight.

9 A.M.

A number of lawmakers have arrived, including Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell, D-Vassalboro, Senate Majority Leader Phil Bartlett, D-Gorham, Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lawrence Bliss, D-South Portland and Judiciary member Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco.

Opponents of the bill are also filing in, many wearing buttons that say "Marriage, One Man One Woman."

AUGUSTA AT 8:30 a.m. --Several hundred people were inside the Augusta Civic Center early this morning in advance of a public hearing for a bill that would legalize gay marriage in Maine.

Several hundred more waited outside, as well. Supporters and opponents of the bill said in advance of the hearing that they expected several thousand to attend the all-day hearing.

Supporters of LD 1020 see the bill as an opportunity to end what they see as discrimination against gay people, while opponents have cast it as an assault on the institution of marriage.

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