More than 150 LGBT advocates gathered on the steps of the Lewiston, Maine, City Hall on Thursday to announce a campaign to put the issue of marriage equality back on the ballot in 2012, just three years after it was rejected by Maine voters.
The issue was intensely political when it dominated Maine news in 2009. A bill allowing same-sex marriage passed largely along party lines in the Democrat-controlled Senate and House that year and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.
A people’s veto effort was immediately launched, run by a coalition of evangelical Christian churches and the Catholic church in Maine. Outside support was provided to both sides and overall spending on the referendum question totaled $9.6 million.
The law was supposed to go into effect on September 12, but was put on hold pending the outcome of the election.
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.
Organizers must collect 57,000 signatures to put the measure on the November 2012 ballot.