Okay, so today, Maine governor John Baldacci signed a bill making Maine the fifth state in the U.S. to approve gay marriage. The bill may still have to pass a "people's veto," a referendum whereby opponents would have to round up 55,000 signatures to get the law on the ballot, so it could be as late as next June before Maine gays have the opportunity to settle down. But the bill holds significance nonetheless, and not just because Baldacci signed it after many New England governors rejected similar bills in their own states.
Its significance lies in Gov. Baldacci's statement after he signed:
Later, in a telephone interview, he said, “It’s not the way I was raised and it’s not the way that I am.” He added: “But at the same time I have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. That’s my job, and you can’t allow discrimination to stand when it’s raised to your level.”
Congratulations, John Baldacci, for getting it right. You're welcome to your personal beliefs, but when it comes down to it, your obligations as an elected official are to the Constitutional rights of your constituents. You can't allow discrimination to stand when it's raised to your level. Even if it's personally abhorrent to you (and I'm not accusing Baldacci of that; his views seem to extend only as far as "not the way I was raised"), your job is to uphold the Constitution, not enforce your own squidginess.
And the people of Maine will have the opportunity to have their say. It could be argued that they've already had their say, in that their chosen representatives in the legislature have voted on their behalf to pass the bill. But in a national culture that recently has put increasing emphasis on the rights of the people to influence legislature directly, they may (with enough votes) be able to speak their minds directly.
“Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people,” [Baldacci] said in the news release. “While the good and just people of Maine may determine this issue, my responsibility is to uphold the Constitution and do, as best as possible, what is right. I believe that signing this legislation is the right thing to do.”
My feeling, of course, is that the Constitution does trump majority rule when it comes to issues like civil rights and arbitrary discrimination, and the voters always have the option to try and change the Constitution if they have a problem with that. But the point is that everyone will have a chance to have their say before the law takes effect.
Regardless. The Weather Channel predicts showers over Bangor through the end of the weekend, with sun and a few clouds throughout next week. When God sends a hurricane and a tsunami and swine flu to the great state of Maine to punish them all for bowing to teh homos, you'll hear it here first.
Well done, Maine state leg; well done, Gov. Baldacci; and congratulations, people of Maine.
Swine flu mentions to date: 3