The ten-word proposed ballot question on legalizing marriage equality published by Maine’s Secretary of State office this week has drawn criticism from both opponents and supporters of the measure.
Both sides say that the wording leaves out important aspects of the proposed change to Maine’s constitution that would overturn Maine’s ban on marriage equality and legalize same-sex marriage.
The proposed question — “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?” — was released Thursday by Secretary of State Charlie Summers.
The wording of the question is significantly shorter than what was proposed by activists who gathered the signatures to put the issue on the November election ballot. In addition to asking voters if they wanted to allow same-sex couples to get marriage licenses, their question made reference to “ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”
This wording, while unnecessary because such protection is already guaranteed under First Amendment rights, has proved very successful in garnering broader support, especially among Independents and some moderate Republicans, in states like New York. With that language removed it will be up to LGBT rights advocates to make it explicitly clear to voters during the ballot campaign that these marriage rights would not impact religious autonomy.
At the same time, opponents of the measure object to the fact that the proposed question does not include the message that it would “redefine” marriage. This kind of language, part of the National Organization for Marriage’s playbook, has similarly been a powerful motivational force against gay marriage in states like Maine itself where marriage equality was, against all expectations, defeated in 2009.
However, some supporters of marriage equality have praised the concise concise language, saying that it gives the voting public a very clear choice to “approve” or “deny” the ballot’s proposal.
The publication of this language marks a 30-day consultation period where changes can be offered by concerned groups and the general public.