Churches across the state of Maine will pass the collection plate at Sunday services on Father’s Day to raise funds for the lead group opposing the state’s November ballot initiative that seeks to legalize same-sex marriage.
Between 150 and 200 churches are expected to raise money for the Protect Marriage Maine political action committee, said Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine evangelical organization and a member of the PAC.
It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for churches to take up collections for political causes. Maine’s Catholic diocese says it raised about $80,000 with a designated collection in 2009 in its effort to overturn Maine’s same-sex marriage law, which was passed by the Legislature that year and later rejected by voters, reported the Associated Press.
The Catholic Church isn’t actively campaigning this time, instead focusing on teaching parishioners about the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.
Maine’s legislature passed a marriage equality law in 2009 to give same-sex couples the right to marry, but in a state-wide ballot referendum that echoed California’s Proposition 8, nearly 53 percent of Maine citizens voted against same-sex marriage, reversing the legislative decision before the law took effect.
Marriage equality advocates have since gathered the required number of verified signatures to put the issue back on the November 2012 ballot — if approved by voters, Maine could become the first state to approve same-sex marriage through a popular vote.
In fact, recent polling suggests that Maine voters are likely to reverse their 2009 decision and legalize same-sex marriage when the issue is once again considered at the ballot box later this year.
According to Public Policy Polling (PPP) in March, 54 percent of voters responded that same-sex marriage should be legal, while only 41 percent think it should be illegal.
In April, the Maine People’s Resource Center released the results of another public opinion poll of likely Maine 2012 voters, which showed support for marriage equality had increased to 58 percent, with opposition about 40 percent.
Conley said that Father’s Day, June 17, seemed an appropriate time to kick off this year’s fundraising campaign against the marriage equality measure because of the day’s focus on family.
Additional collection-plate offerings at churches are expected in the months ahead.
Earlier this week, the Maine Education Association voted to endorse the referendum on the November ballot that would allow same-sex couples in Maine to marry.