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Maine Gay Marriage Supporters Launch New Referendum Drive
06/30/2011   Reported By: Josie Huang

More than 150 gay-rights supporters gathered on the steps of Lewiston City Hall today to announce a campaign to put the issue of same-sex marriage to Maine voters in 2012--exactly three years after voters repealed a state law that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed.

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Maine Gay Marriage Supporters Launch New Referendu
Originally Aired: 6/30/2011 5:30 PM
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150 gay-rights supporters gathered on the steps of Lewiston City Hall
150 gay-rights supporters on the steps of Lewiston City Hall  

Gay-rights activists are still smarting from the 2009 people's veto of Maine's same-sex marriage law that the Legislature had passed earlier that year. But leaders say that times have changed, and that they can win on gay marriage in 2012.

"We know this because we're going door-to-door, talking with Mainers, about why marriage matters to gay and lesbian people," says Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, which will be leading the petition drive to get a same-sex marriage initiative on the ballot, along with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders--or GLAD.

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.

Delivering the application for the citizen initiative to state officials was Pastor Michael Gray of the Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church. Gray used to describe himself as a born-again Christian and follower of conservative talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. But over time, he says, he's changed his mind about letting same-sex couples marry.

"I not only support their right to have the freedom to marry if they are lucky to find someone that they love, I also think that it is imperative that the state treat and protect these relationships and the families that they create in the same way that my family is treated and protected," he said.

But Gray recognizes that even among his own congregation, there is ambivalence about same-sex marriage. As a way to protect religious freedom, proponents of the ballot initiative propose it would read like this: "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?"

But that's no consolation to the religious leaders who fought same-sex marriage in 2009. Mark Mutty, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, says that the issue was already put to rest by the people's veto. "This is likely to be another divisive, long campaign, and something I don't think Maine people need to be going through," he says.

Mutty says that the Diocese still believes same-sex marriage violates scriptural tenets about marriage being between man and a woman, and breaks down society. He says that New York lawmakers' recent passage of same-sex marriage law does not indicate a shift in popular attitudes.

"It's important to note that this is a legislative victory," Mutty says. "Wherever this has been put to the popular vote, traditional marriage has prevailed--unequivocally."

But Mutty, and another vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, Bob Emrich, a Baptist pastor and board member of the Christian Civic League, say that they have not worked out a plan yet on how they will deal with the petition drive.

Gay rights leadres say they will next work to collect more than 57,000 valid signatures by January, raise funds, and continue outreach campaigns in communities such as Lewiston, where voters rejected same-sex marriage in 2009.




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