How will 9th Circuit decision impact Maine's gay marriage vote?

Posted Tuesday, February 7, 2012 in Politics

How will 9th Circuit decision impact Maine's gay marriage vote?

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the 9th Circuit District Court overturned Proposition 8 in California, which denied marriage to gay and lesbian people.  Proposition 8 was voted into law in 2008.  It was stayed by a lower court in 2010.

Although many assume that Prop. 8 supporters will immediately appeal to the broader 9th Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court, it is doubtful whether the high court would choose to hear the case, because the 9th Circuit's decision narrowly defined the ruling to include only states, like California, where gays and lesbians had enjoyed equal rights under the marriage laws, which were later unconstitutionally removed.

Even so, if left unchallenged by the Supreme Court, it would set a precedent that would be difficult for states in which gay marriage is legal to overturn gay marriage by either legislative or initiative process.

How would that affect the upcoming vote for gay marriage in Maine? 

The 9th Circuit's ruling impacts states where gay marriage had been legal, as it had been in Maine, but where gay marriage was subsequently reversed.  Now, Maine does not fall within the 9th Circuit, of course, but unless the ruling is challenged, it may stand as written.

Maine is in the First Circuit, which is currently examining a couple of gay marriage questions.  One, which is scheduled to begin oral arguments as early as this month and is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court, concerns the Defense of Marriage Act's denial of federal benefits to same sex couples who live in states that have legalized gay marriage.  Another decision, rendered just last week, upheld a Maine law that requires groups that spend more than $5,000 on referendum advocacy to disclose the identity of donors that gave more than $100.  During the upcoming election, those who are donating funds in favor of the vote to legalize marriage between same-sex couples, and more significantly, those opposed, will have to be disclosed.

Ian Grady, Maine Public Education Manager at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said that the coalition's effort was focused on the referendum legalizing gay marriage, which will likely be on the ballot in November. "We are relying on the people of the state, rather than the courts," he said.  "We're going to do everything in our power in the next ten months to make sure the referendum passes."

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