by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality, the statewide, grassroots campaign defending Maine's marriage equality law, is asking the state's citizens to vote No on Question 1 this November 3 during the General Election.
Earlier this month, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap certified that the law's opponents had collected enough signatures to place their referendum to repeal the marriage equality law, which was passed by the legislature and was signed by Governor John Baldacci, on the ballot.
Maine became the fifth state to legalize Gay marriage in May. Opponents, led by the Catholic Church and other clergy, immediately began campaigning for a people's veto, which would ask voters to overturn the law. The group successfully collected the 55,087 registered voter signatures needed to put the question on the ballot. The same-sex marriage law would've taken effect 90 days after the Legislature's June 13 adjournment, but is now on hold due to Question 1 making the General Election ballot.
In Maine, voting actually begins in early October. Maine has one of the most liberal absentee ballot laws, with same-day voter registration.
Protect Main Equality said the certification did not come as a surprise. On their website, www.protectmaineequality.org, the organization said, "We've been gearing up for months to fight this battle."
The opposition for same-sex marriage equality in Maine, the National Organization for Marriage, has hired anti-Gay-marriage Schubert-Flint Public Affairs as its consultant. This is the same company that ran the successful Yes on Prop 8 Campaign in California last year.
The fight for marriage equality in Maine has thrust the state into the national spotlight. The pro Gay marriage organization, however, says that despite some opposition, there are many, many voters in the state who are for equality.
On their website, Protect Maine Equality said marriage equality honors the commitment - often lasting decades - that thousands of loving same-sex couples in Maine have made to each other. Without marriage equality, loving, committed same-sex couples are not recognized as a legal pair. They cannot file taxes jointly, do not have access to health insurance as a family, and are not allowed to inherit property at the time of death without the hardship of crushing taxes.
"Separate is not equal, and everyone, including Gay and Lesbian couples, should be treated equally under the law," Protect Maine Equality posted. "Marriage equality reflects traditional Maine values of fairness and equality."
The organization said marriage equality protects children, as well. It guarantees the children of same-sex couples all of the rights and protections that marriage grants automatically to a married couple's children. According to Protect Maine Equality, marriage equality recognizes that it is a person or couple's parenting skills and the love for one's children that makes a good parent.
As for people of faith, Protect Maine Equality has said that Maine's marriage equality law respects and protects the rights of people of faith.
"It explicitly ensures that no one empowered to perform marriages will be required to marry any couple, including same-sex couples, contrary to their conscience or their religious beliefs," Protect Maine Equality said. "Nonetheless, marriage equality is supported by many leaders and people of faith, some having long chosen to recognize the love and commitment of same-sex couples."
The campaign leader, Jesse Connolly, said Maine Freedom to Marry was changed from a successful legislative campaign to a field campaign. He said people are knocking on doors, making phone calls, and asking Maine residents to support Gay marriage.
"We need to show folks that the Legislature and the governor passed this law and signed this law," said Connolly. "And the Legislature and the governor heard from tens of thousands of Maine citizens that understood what marriage equality meant for them."
Connolly said, "There's an old saying: 'As Maine goes, so goes the nation.' When Maine speaks loudly for equality on November 3rd, our voices will be heard around the nation."
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