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Mainers React to Supreme Court's Gay Marriage Decision

Nick Woodward
Elise Johansen, executive director of Equality Maine, celebrates the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

PORTLAND, Maine - The U.S. Supreme Court's decision that legalizes gay marriage nationwide is sparking reaction from Maine residents.

"Thanks to this ruling, same-sex couples who are legally married in Maine will have those marriages recognized by every state in the country," says ACLU of Maine Legal Director Zach Heiden, "and that's quite significant."

Credit Nick Woodward / MPBN
Bangor rallies in celebration of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.

In its 5 to 4 decision issued Friday morning, the court says that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court has also ruled that states must recognize the legality of gay marriages from other states when couples move.

At a rally in Bangor, Equality Maine Development Director Chris O'Connor said the decision is one more step toward full equality for LGBT people in Maine and throughout the country. But he says the work is not done.

"We know that LGBT youth are still being bullied across the country," O'Connor says. "And not in Maine, but folks can be denied housing, can be fired for being gay, can be denied public service for being gay."

A spokesman for Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King says in a statement that the independent lawmaker "believes that ending discrimination against same-sex couples is fair and right. And today, he is filled with pride for all of the brave men and women who have fought tirelessly to end discrimination and who have stood up in the face of intolerance and prejudice. He congratulates them on this momentous occasion.”

Credit Nick Woodward / MPBN
Cathy Tracy (left) and Dianne Waters of Hancock have been together for 21 years, and married for two.

King's Republican colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, is also praising the decision. “Today’s historic Supreme Court decision recognized that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry," Collins says, in a statement. "This marks an important day for many of our friends, family members, and neighbors.  As Justice Kennedy wrote, 'The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person…and couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.' I agree. 

"This opinion appropriately distinguishes between civil marriage ceremonies and religious ceremonies," Collins continues, "and recognizes that the First Amendment protects the beliefs of churches."

That's the one aspect of the decision winning praise from Bishop Robert Deeley, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Maine. Deeley says the decision is a "profound disappointment." But he says he's "thankful that the true principle of religious liberty is specifically upheld in this decision."

In 2009, Maine approved a measure legalizing gay marriage, but the law was overturned later that year in a people's veto campaign that was spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. Gay marriage in Maine was legalized after a second referendum in 2012.

Gay and lesbian couples can also already marry 35 other states, and the District of Columbia. The court's ruling on Friday means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.