Same Sex Marriage
A Maine Citizen Initiative Referendum Item
Tuesday, November 6, 2012, is election day through out the nation. Here in Maine election day this year also means voters have an opportunity to vote on five (5) referendum items. The first referendum item on the ballot is a citizen initiative; on the ballot due to petition by a group of Maine citizens.
The first referendum item asks, “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples?” Plainly worded, a yes vote means you agree same sex couples should be allowed to marry in Maine while a no vote means you do not want same sex couples to be allowed to marry in Maine.
The Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom amends Maine’s current statute for getting a marriage license. Right now, only a man and a woman couple can get a marriage license in Maine. If the voters pass the referendum any couple, whether of the same sex or different sexes, will be allowed to marry in Maine. All other requirements for a marriage license, such as age,remain in place. The amended statute will also recognize a same sex marriage performed in another state when that state permits same sex marriage.
The religious freedom part of the statute would protect any member of the clergy who does not perform same sex marriages if participating in a same sex marriage would violate the clergyperson’s religious beliefs. Likewise, no place of worship is required to permit same sex marriages at their place of worship if doing so goes against the religious beliefs of the place of worship.
Clergy and places of worship cannot be sued under the statute for not performing same sex marriages for religious reasons. Also places of worship will not lose their tax exempt status simply for refusing to perform same sex marriage for religious reasons.
What legal impact will there be should the citizens of Maine approve same sex marriages in Maine? Right away there may be an increase in marriages. The increase in marriages may ultimately result in an increase in divorces. The increase in divorces will put an additional burden on the state’s legal system and courts.
Aditionally, Maine charges a tax on the transfer of real estate between unrelated parties. The allowance of same sex marriages may result in a decrease in the state’s transfer tax revenue as transfers between spouses are exempt from the transfer tax. Approval of this law will give the same legal protections to same sex couples in Maine that now benefit male/female couples, saving same sex couples the cost and time of getting personal legal documents in place to protect their relationship.