Marriage equality may go on Maine ballot in November
 

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posted Friday, January 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 04

Marriage equality may go on Maine ballot in November
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Marriage equality activists in Maine announced on January 26 that they are going ahead with plans to put the question up for a second statewide vote.

EqualityMaine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the Maine Women's Lobby said they have collected 105,000 signatures - far more than the number needed to qualify for the ballot - and will present them to the Secretary of State.

The title of the proposed citizens' initiative is 'An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom.'

The proposed ballot question submitted to Maine's Secretary of State in June of last year asks:

'Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and that protects religious freedom by ensuring that no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?'

To get the initiative on the 2012 ballot, organizers needed to collect at least 57,277 signatures by January 30.

If the signatures are certified, the measure then goes to the Legislature - now controlled by Republicans - for an up-or-down vote. If the Legislature approves the proposal and the Republican governor signs it, then Gay marriage will be legalized.

If the Legislature votes it down, or the governor vetoes the bill, which are the expected outcomes, the question then goes to the voters.

In 2009, a marriage bill was passed by Maine's legislature, but was voted down in a so-called 'people's veto' referendum.

Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, said polling by her organization indicates 54% of state residents now support marriage equality.

'The number of signatures we gathered and the thoughtful conversations we've been having with voters tell us that Mainers are eager to speak on this question again,' she added.

'Like hundreds of other volunteers who spent the last few months gathering signatures for this initiative, I have seen firsthand how talking to Mainers about same-sex marriage is helping people to reconsider their views,' said Lucie Bauer, a volunteer signature-gatherer who lives with her partner of nearly 20 years.

'By talking to our neighbors about why marriage matters to loving couples like the two of us, we have the power to change hearts and minds.'

Spokespeople for the coalition sponsoring the new initiative campaign said they had learned from their earlier defeat.

'The most important thing we learned from our experience in 2009 is that we needed to share our personal stories about why marriage matters directly with our friends and neighbors in Maine,' said Laura Harper, director of public policy for the Maine Women's Lobby.

'Now, it is time to let those voters speak, and we are confident they are ready to support the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples in Maine.'

'Loving, committed couples in Maine want to marry for the same reason that their friends and neighbors do: to build and share a life with the person they love,' said Lee Swislow, executive director of GLAD. 'All Maine families deserve the security and legal protections of marriage that help make this possible, and a majority of Maine voters now realize this.'

'We can protect religious liberty and fulfill the constitutional promise for equality under the law for all people by supporting the freedom to marry,' said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the ACLU of Maine. 'Discrimination, against anyone, runs counter to the Constitution and to the Maine way of life.'

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which opposes marriage equality, said it was 'dismayed' that equality supporters chose to seek another vote so soon.

'After the bitterly divisive campaign of 2009, in which Maine people clearly and decisively voted against changing the meaning of marriage, we're dismayed that they would bring this issue back for yet another vote,' Brian Souchet, a spokesman for the diocese, said in a statement.



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