Gay Marriage Debate 

A public hearing on allowing gay marriage in Maine has opened with a standing ovation for the bill’s sponsor.Sen. Dennis Damon received a roar of approval at a crowded hearing Wednesday when he said the time has come to recognize same-sex marriages.He says his proposal “recognizes the worth of every man and woman among us.” It is backed by 60 co-sponsors.Gay rights activists have set a goal of establishing same-sex marriage in all six New England states by 2012. They’re already halfway there.The bill’s prospects are uncertain in Maine. Gov. John Baldacci previously opposed the bill but now says he’s keeping an open mind.The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee takes up the proposal today in a daylong hearing at the Augusta Civic Center. Maine lawmakers eye the proposal two weeks after Vermont’s House overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a bill. New Hampshire’s Senate is expected to take up a House-approved gay marriage bill by the end of April. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa have been moved by courts to adopt same-sex marriage laws. Among those expected to testify at today’s hearing in Maine is Bishop Richard Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Portland, who opposes the bill. Gay couples and civil rights proponents are to speak for the bill.