An effort to have Maine voters legalize marriage equality can proceed after the Maine Secretary of State confirmed Thursday that enough signatures have been verified to place a Citizens’ Initiative allowing same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses on the November ballot.
The number of signatures submitted for verification was an impressive 105,000. The 85, 216 verified votes far exceeds the 57,272 that was required to put the issue on the ballot. This, according to equality groups and marriage equality advocates, shows how strong support for legalizing marriage equality is in Maine.
Statements via WhyMarriageMatters:
“Just as my own thinking has evolved on this issue, more and more people in Maine are coming to understand that loving, committed same-sex couples should not be denied the freedom to marry,” said Pastor Michael Gray of Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church and the citizens initiative’s lead signer. ”We gathered signatures from voters in more than 450 towns all over Maine, and those people signed the petition because they want the chance to vote on this issue again so their gay and lesbian family, friends and neighbors can have access to marriage licenses.”
“Same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons other couples want to marry: because they love each other and want to spend their lives together,” said Betsy Smith, the executive director of EqualityMaine. ”During the last two years, our coalition has had thousands of face-to-face conversations about marriage with Mainers who have changed their minds about this issue. There’s no question that momentum is growing for same-sex marriage in Maine.”
Polling data suggests 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.”
Two other recent public polls put support for marriage equality at 53%, the same margin that rejected same-sex marriage in 2009.
The measure put before voters 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?”
According to the American Independent, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has already pledged $32,000 to trying to defeat the marriage equality effort though their resources will be spread thinly with other marriage equality related battles set in Washington and potentially Maryland.
If marriage equality were to win in Maine it would be the first time voters have approved a same-sex marriage law.