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Day After Petitions Certified, Battle Over Gay Marriage Law Heats Up
September 3, 2009   Reported By: Susan Sharon

Just one day after same-sex marriage opponents' petitions were certified and their repeal effort was guaranteed a place on the  November ballot, supporters have begun airing TV advertisements to promote their campaign.  Urging a "No On One" vote, Protect Maine Equality wants Mainers to understand why a same-sex marriage law should be kept in place, even as opponents warn that it will erode family values. Campaign activists on both sides are deeply rooted in the cause.

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MTC Story
Originally Aired: 9/3/2009 5:30 PM

He's just 30 years old.  But already, Protect Maine Equality's Executive Director is a veteran of the John Kerry presidential campaign in Maine, the 2005 Maine Won't Discriminate campaign and Governor John Baldacci's re-election effort.  He ran all three. 

And while he calls himself a "straight ally" of gays and lesbians who want to get married, Jesse Connolly has strong personal reasons for wanting to win.

"My late father was a state representative from Portland from 1972 until he passed away in 1987, and he introduced the first non-discrimination bill that our state tried to pass, in 1974.  And for me, working on the past 2005 Maine Won't Discriminate, and this campaign, I feel like I'm trying to finish something that my father started 25 or 30 years ago."

Connolly and his wife married three years ago, and that's another reason why he's pushing the No On One vote.  "It's really about fairness and equality, and making sure that Mainers know that they have to go out and vote to support what the Legislature and the governor did this past spring."

What the Legislature and the governor did was make Maine the fifth state to legalize same-sex marriage.  But before the law could take effect this month, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland along with other groups, mobilized a decisive repeal effort.

Working out of an unmarked office in a small business plaza in Yarmouth, Mark Mutty, Executive Chairman of the Stand for Marriage coalition, says the gorup had trouble finding a place to put their headquarters.

"Many people wouldn't rent to us because of the position we're taking on this issue," he says.

Susan Sharon:  "They turned you down?  Said we won't take your money?"

Marc Mutty:  "That's correct, said we don't want anything to do with people who are on the other side of this issue and, you know, we're considered bigots."

As a longtime public affairs director for the diocese, Mutty views himself and the coaliton as defending the traditional definition of marriage and the role it plays in society.  To redefine it by allowing same-sex couples to marry,  Mutty says will lead to curriculum changes in the schools.

"And many certainly feel uncomfortable about that, and the fact that children as young as seven or eight years old are going to be taught about gay sex in some detail."

"This is one of these great lines we get.  That's the kind of stuff that I find really offensive," says Jim Bishop, a supporter and volunteer of the No On One/Protect Maine Equality campaign.

"Saying that we're going to teach about gay marriage and gay lifestyle in the schools and try to convert -- these things, this is just absurd.  I'm sorry, that is so far out of what we're talking about," Bishop says.

If and when same sex-marriage becomes legal in Maine,  Bishop is hoping to marry his partner of 33 years, Stephen Ryan.  The two are Unitarians who built a low-income housing business together.  They do not have any children.

"It's really about civil rights, about having the same things that every other loving couple has," Ryan says.  "But I have full confidence that the people in Maine will do the right thing and honor civil rights for all Mainers."

Protect Maine Equality has convinced more than 80,000 Maine voters to pledge to support their cause.  But around the country, opponents of gay marriage generally appear to outnumber supporters at the ballot box.  Since 2004, more than two dozen states have passed referenda to prohibit same-sex marriage, including California, where consultant and strategist Frank Schubert helped opponents claim victory last fall. 

A devout Catholic who has three children, divorced his first wife, and remarried 13 years ago, Schubert has come to Maine to protect an institution he views as "divinely inspired."

"So what we're going to be talking about with people is how important the institution of marriage is, and the focus that the law has put on nurturing and raising children.  And we're going to begin to educate people that this is an issue that will have real consequences for people. It really is not a simple bumper-strip type slogan that, you know, it's just about fairness or equality."

Even though about half of all marriages end in divorce, Schubert says that's no reason to change the institution.  Maine voters have eight weeks to decide whether they agree.






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