Polarization properties of Gaussian laser beams are analyzed in a manner consistent with the Maxwell equations, and expressions are developed for all components of the electric and magnetic field vectors in the beam. It is shown that the transverse nature of the free electromagnetic field demands a nonzero transverse cross-polarization component in addition to the well-known component of the field vectors along the beam axis. The strength of these components in relation to the strength of the principal polarization component is established. It is further shown that the integrated strengths of these components over a transverse plane are invariants of the propagation process. It is suggested that cross-polarization measurement using a null detector can serve as a new method for accurate determination of the center of Gaussian laser beams.