News (USA)

Maine gay marriage supporters exceed petition goal to force ballot initiative

Supporters of same-sex marriage in Maine have surpassed their goal of gathering more than 75,000 petition signatures necessary to put the question on next year’s ballot.

A coalition led by Equality Maine launched a petition drive in August for a ballot initiative that would ask Mainers the following question on the November 2012 ballot:

“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?”

Betsy Smith of Equality Maine said 396 volunteers collected more than 36,000 signatures on Election Day, bringing the total number to approximately 100,000, reported the Associated Press.

The group needed to collect at least 57,277 voters’ signatures by Jan. 30, 2012 to qualify to put the measure on the 2012 ballot.

Smith said the group will make its decision on a referendum in January.

Maine is currently the only state in New England that doesn’t allow either gay marriage or civil unions for same-sex couples.

A bill to allow same-sex marriages in Maine was signed into law on May 6, 2009, by the-Gov. John Baldacci following approval by state lawmakers, but was overturned in a ballot referendum on November 3, 2009 after anti-gay opposition groups won that vote by 52.8 percent.

Two recent polls indicate that 53 percent of Mainers now favor same-sex marriage.

Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in only six states — New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont — and the District of Columbia.

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