Inspired by New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage, equality groups in Maine have this week announced they will be collecting signatures for a 2012 ballot initiative to once again put the issue of marriage equality before voters.
At a press conference held Thursday on the steps of Lewiston City Hall, gay rights group Equality Maine and legal group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced it would file paperwork with election officials to start the process of gathering 57,000 signatures to put the issue on next fall’s ballot.
“The process of winning the freedom to marry begins today,”¯ Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, told the crowd. “There is much we must do before we can win the freedom to marry in Maine. Specifically, we must gather enough signatures to get on the ballot. We must continue changing hearts and minds about why marriage matters.”
“We know our opponents will come at us hard, like they did in 2009. They will raise a lot of money. And they will use that money to mislead, confuse and distract voters from the real subject, as they have admitted that they did in 2009.”
Maine equality advocates suffered a crushing blow in 2009 when 53% voters enacted a people’s veto on marriage equality legislation the state’s legislature had passed earlier that year. The margin was tight, and now marriage equality proponents think the outcome of a new ballot may go in their favor — and they may be right:
Two polls commissioned by the groups support their intuition by indicating that 53 percent of Mainers now favor same-sex marriage. That’s the same percentage of people who voted against same-sex marriage in 2009.
Smith pointed out that since then, the number of states that allow same-sex marriage has grown. “Like New York, and New Hampshire, and Vermont, and Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and Iowa and Washingotn D.C., we are committed to winning marriage equality in the wonderful state of Maine,” she said.
The question used in the 2009 ballot was condemned by some as misleading, however one can’t imagine a more plain question than the one picked for the 2012 ballot: “Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?”
The inclusion of very explicit religious protections is a smart move, but those against gay marriage are not happy.
Opponents charge that the matter was already settled by the people and that this ballot initiative will be derisive and damaging to Maine — marriage equality proponents say the damage was done when opponents of gay marriage used what they have now admitted may have been misleading arguments so as to win in 2009.
As mentioned above, marriage equality advocates will require 57,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the 2012 ballot and are said to be already reaching out to try and start conversations in communities such as Lewiston which rejected marriage equality in 2009.
Photo used under the MorgueFile user license, with thanks to mensatic.