Gay marriage takes leap ahead in New England with votes in Maine, NH
By GLENN ADAMS and HOLLY RAMER Associated Press Writers
AUGUSTA, Maine May 6, 2009 (AP)
New England states signaled an increasing willingness to sanction gay marriage on Wednesday as Maine legalized the practice and the New Hampshire Legislature do the same.
If New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signs the bill or lets it become law without his signature, his state would become the sixth overall to allow gay marriage and the fifth in New England. Rhode Island would be the only state in the region without such a law.
Maine Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat who hadn't indicated how he would handle his state's bill, signed it shortly after the legislation passed the Senate on a vote of 21-13 - a margin not large enough to override a veto（注1）.
"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions（注2）," Baldacci said in a statement read in his office. "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."
Lynch, also a Democrat, remained uncommitted but has said he believes the word "marriage" should be reserved for unions of a man and a woman.
The New Hampshire bill squeaked through on a 178-167 vote after an hour of debate. Both chambers appear to be far short of enough votes to override a veto.
Rep. David Pierce, who has two daughters with his partner, described telling his 5-year-old that "some people don't believe we should be a family."
"When my kids grow up and are old enough to understand what we're doing here today, I want them to know I did everything I could to fight for our family," said Pierce, D-Hanover.
In the United States, Congress can override a presidential veto by having a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and Senate, thus enacting the bill into law despite the president's veto. However, a veto may not be overridden if it is a pocket veto, a veto in which the president simply ignores a bill between congressional sessions. The veto override is an example of checks and balances, the process in which various branches of the U.S. government can limit each others' power.
Many states of the US have similar regulations, i.e. a state governor can veto (refuse to sign on) a bill passed by the legislature, and the legislature can override the veto. Most states require a two-thirds majority vote to override.
A civil union is a legally recognized union similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have been established by law in many developed countries in order to provide same-sex couples with rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar (in some countries, identical) to opposite-sex civil marriage. In some jurisdictions, such as Quebec, New Zealand, and Uruguay, civil unions are also open to opposite-sex couples.