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Maine Public Hearing on Marriage Equality Tomorrow

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On Wednesday, the Augusta Civic Center in Maine will host a public hearing on a set of marriage equality bills that are currently up for consideration in the state legislature.

Equality Maine is urging LGBT residents and allies of Maine to come out to the hearings.

As noted by local Maine paper, The Morning Sentinel, up for discussion are two separate bills addressing two very different approaches to state recognition of same-sex couples:

The first piece of legislation, proposed by state Sen. Dennis Damon of Trenton, would extended full marriage equality to same-sex couples. The legislation would also maintain that religious institutions would not be compelled to perform wedding ceremonies.

The second bill proposed by state Rep. Leslie Fossel of Alna would establish a domestic partnership registry, which would extend some protections and benefits to same-sex, couples.

A progressive blog in Maine, Turn Maine Blue, notes that doors open at 8am and the hearing begins at 9am. They also list the rules of the hearing:

Public Hearing Procedure

• To allow time for as many participants as possible to testify:
* A person may testify only once, for a maximum of 3 minutes per person; rebuttal testimony is not permitted.
* Avoid redundant testimony.
* Groups are encouraged to select a spokesperson.
* When not testifying, please remain quiet or step outside so others can hear the testimony and help the process move efficiently.
* Minors are present; all testimony and conversations must be kept appropriate and dignified.
• If you have written testimony, please give 20 copies to the staff before speaking.
* Signs, pictures, posters or banners, balloons or sticks are not allowed in the building or outside on Civic Center property.
* Demonstrations, chanting or other disruptive behavior is prohibited.
* Weapons of any type are prohibited on Civic Center grounds.
* Smoking is allowed beyond the sidewalk curb, as designated by the Civic Center.
* Civic Center will be open serving food and drink.
* Paper copies of the bill will NOT be available at the hearing.
* Access to the public hearing is via the first floor only. Other events are occurring in the building.
* Ample seating is expected to be available throughout the day.

The issue of marriage equality and tomorrow's hearing were discussed this afternoon on The Maine Public Broadcasting Network (you can click here to listen):

Speaking in Maine comes to us next from the Muskie School of Public Service at USM for a forum on a possible Same Sex Marriage Law. Two pieces of pending legislation that would change the definition of marriage and civil unions in Maine will heard on Wednesday, April 22 in the legislature. Forum Panelists will be Democratic Senator Dennis Damon (D) and Republican Representative Les Fossel (R) who have each sponsored pending legislation, Shenna Bellows from the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Marc Mutty representing the Catholic Diocese, and Ron Gobeil from the Maine Marriage Initiative.

According to the Associated Press and The Bangor Daily News, the state's move on marriage equality has drawn small groups of anti-gay activists from across the country.

In the blogosphere, Joe.My.God and Wicked Gay Blog have commented on the lead up to the public hearings. Back in March, Pam's House Blend compiled the statements of a number of social workers, psychologists and children's interests organizations who spoke out in support of marriage equality in Maine.