Marriage equality activists in Maine have announced that they will proceed with a ballot initiative to strike down the 2009 referendum that overturned same-sex marriage in the state. The coalition, led by EqualityMaine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, has gathered more than 105,000 signatures from Mainers who want to bring marriage to the ballot in 2012, far more than the roughly 57,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. The signatures will be submitted to the Secretary of State on January 26, 2012.
The group also released a new poll, which found that “a majority (54 percent) favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in Maine” and echoes the growing support for equality nationwide:
“Marriage is going to be decided at the ballot box,” Betsy Smith, Executive Director of Equality Maine, said on a call with bloggers. “We feel very comfortable about winning, it’s the reason we made a decision to go.” Smith said the campaign has invested in a “paid persuasion canvas program,” knocked on 110,000 doors and engaged in 40,000 conversations with Mainers and persuaded 22 percent of opponents to be more supportive of marriage. Advocates also stressed that same-sex marriage has already been approved by the legislative process and signed into law by the governor, describing the campaign as an effort to bring that law back. The wording of the initiative has not yet been finalized, but the measure will be titled, ‘An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses For Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedoms.’
Smith added that there is a small chance that opponents will try to dilute the marriage equality question by proposing a competing measure to legalize civil unions or domestic partnerships. “It is highly unlikely that will happen,” she said, explaining that “it is a complicated process and high hurdle to jump…it would also be very difficult for them to find support for a competing measure…[and] it’s very difficult for them to find a majority of support to pass civil unions.”
In 2009, the referendum to overturn marriage equality passed by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent.