Marriage equality advocates in Maine have submitted for a public referendum on legalizing gay marriage.
Group Equality Maine had in fact collected the required number of signatures to put the issue of same-sex marriage on the ballot over a month ago but had been deliberating whether the coming November elections would be the best forum for the public to take up the issue. However, the group has now decided the prospect is desirable.
In the end, the group submitted more than 105,000 signatures in support of the measure, almost twice the number that is required to bring about a public referendum.
Equality Maine, commenting in a Thursday press release, said: “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.”
Polling data, the group says, shows that around 54 percent of Mainers support legalizing same-sex marriage, with Bestey Smith, executive director of Equality Maine quoted as saying, “Many Mainers have changed their minds and want a chance to bring equality and fairness to our state.” This is in reference to the narrow defeat marriage equality suffered at the 2009 ballot where voters opted to ban a gay marriage law the state’s Legislature had approved, enacting what is known as a “people’s veto.”
The measure will be titled “An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” and the wording proposed for the ballot question is as follows: “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?”
The wording will of course require the approval of the Maine Secretary of State, though no objections are expected.
Two other recent public polls put support for marriage equality 53%, the same margin that rejected same-sex marriage in 2009.
However, according to the American Independent, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has already pledged $32,000 to trying to defeat the marriage equality effort.