A story published today in the Press Herald reports that as he signed a bill Wednesday creating domestic partnerships in Maine, Gov. John Baldacci said the state is demonstrating its commitment to civil rights by enacting a new statewide domestic partnership law.
The new law, which takes effect 90 days after the signing, extends domestic partnership rights to heterosexual or gay adults who live together under long-term arrangements. It also gives domestic partners the same inheritance rights as a spouse when a married partner dies without a will.
"From the beginning, this has been about fairness and justice for what are today's families here in Maine, and giving them the same protections that certain married couples have already," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ben Dudley, D-Portland.
The measure was a priority of the Maine Lesbian Gay Political Alliance, said the group's Betsy Smith, who also attended a bill-signing ceremony in the governor's office.
Some of Maine's families are gay and lesbian couples, and currently they don't have the same kinds of rights as those other families have, said Smith.
"This legislation is about people who die without a will," she added.
The new law will allow domestic partners to register with the state as such. Registered couples' partnerships could not be terminated without the consent of both parties.
They will also have priority for appointment as personal representatives, guardians or conservators for an estate or custodian of the remains of a deceased partner.
Congratulating the bill's advocates and sponsors, Baldacci said the bill shows "our state is a state that recognizes the importance of individual rights and civil rights for all citizens."
The gay-lesbian alliance lined up behind the bill after withdrawing a bill earlier that would extend civil rights to homosexuals under the Maine Human Rights Act.
Christian Civic League of Maine executive director Michael Heath said the bill will work to "destroy the family," which should consist of a mother and father who are committed for a lifetime.