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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine

2011-AUG to 2012-FEB: Signatures collected for new
referendum. Rep. Chellie Pingree addresses Congress.

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In this section, "SSM" refers to "same-sex marriage, and
"LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2011-AUG-21: SSM supporters begin to collect signatures:

The wording of the proposed initiative was approved by Maine's Secretary of State, Charlie Summers. The title is:

"An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom."1

The actual ballot question is:

"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?"1

On the first day that signatures were collected, about 5,200 signatures were obtained. A total of 57,277 voters were required sign the petition before 2012-JAN-30 in order to have "Question 1" added to the ballot for election day on 2012-NOV. EqualityMaine -- the largest LGBT rights group in the state -- originally set 75,000 signatures as its goal. That would provide a buffer in case some of the signatures were invalid. By AUG-21, they had collected almost 100,000.

EqualityMaine sent an email to its supporters saying:

"Yesterday, as volunteers gathered signatures for marriage, folks statewide reported enthusiasm and changed minds – a volunteer in a small town kept calling to ask if she could stay longer because she was so excited how many people were signing."

"A man in a northern, rural town told us he wouldn't have signed two years ago, and when we asked what changed his mind he said simply, 'My daughter'." 2,3

A poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in late 2011-OCT showed voters' support for marriage equality in the state is steadily increasing while opposition is steadily decreasing:

  • The referendum in 2009 resulted in 47% voting in favor of SSM and 53% opposed. This terminated same-sex marriage in the state.

  • A PPP poll during 2011-MAR showed 47% in favor and 45% opposed, resulting in a small two percentage points margin in favor of SSM.

  • A PPP poll during 2011-OCT-28 to 31 showed 51% in favor and 42% opposed; 8% were not sure or didn't answer. That is a margin of 9 percentage points. That level of support would be difficult, but not impossible, for groups opposed to SSM to overcome. It might be attainable with a major investment in fear-based ads. The margin of error for the survey is ±3.8%

According to PPP, they are "... a Democratic polling company, but polling expert Nate Silver of the New York Times found that its surveys in 2010 actually exhibited a slight bias toward Republican candidates."

The poll also asked whether voters were in favor or opposed to the actual question that will be asked in 2012-NOV cited above.

Polling results were 48% in favor, 35% opposed and 17% unsure or didn't answer, for a margin of 13 percentage points in favor of SSM. 4

One significant factor that may influence the voting on "Question 1" will be the choice of the Republican presidential candidate. By early 2012, significant numbers of social and religious conservatives are reluctant to vote for some of the candidates because of their:

  • Adulterous behavior: Newt Gingrich is currently married to his third wife after having two mistresses;
  • Previous liberal policies: Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, introduced universal health care;
  • Religious affiliation: Mitt Romney is a Mormon which is considered a cult by many fundamentalist an other evangelical Christians;.
  • Radical views: Rick Santorum has expressed negative views towards women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and the availability of birth control.

These factors might possibly cause a low turnout among conservatives on voting day, thus swaying the result of the citizen initiative and making marriage equality in the state more likely.

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2012-JAN-26: More than 105,000 signatures of registered voters delivered:

A coalition of marriage equality groups composed of EqualityMaine, Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the Maine Women's Lobby have collected over 105,000 signatures on their petition for a referendum on election day, 2012-NOV. They have decide to proceed with the citizen initiative and have delivered the signatures to the office of the Secretary of State. That office now has 30 days to confirm that at least 57,277 are valid signatures by Maine voters. 5

Thomas Peters, writing for the National Organization for Marriage -- the main national group opposing same-sex marriage in the U.S. -- pointed out that marriage equality workers have often expressed the belief that a fundamental human right like the right to marry should not be submitted to a majority vote of the public. Since it now appears that the Maine referendum may proceed, Peters asked: "was that argument of theirs just a canard?"6

Marc Solomon, is the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and an executive committee member on the Maine ballot campaign. He responded:

"As a matter of principle, I believe strongly that it is wrong to vote on the fundamental rights of any minority group. Yet in Maine, all realistic paths to enabling loving and committed same-sex couples to have the freedom to marry run through the ballot. Securing and protecting anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people took three referenda in Maine. So in this instance, I feel that this path is the smart one.

What’s more, Maine — along with Minnesota and other states that face 2012 referenda — will offer a strategic roadmap to begin undoing antigay constitutional amendments that were approved in most cases before we even had a fighting chance. 

During the past few months, I’ve had the chance to spend time with the Maine 'Table — the group of organizations that has been working tirelessly since the 2009 loss to prepare to win back the freedom to marry.  It’s an extraordinary group of smart, savvy, strategic and thoughtful individuals who did rigorous due diligence in preparing and reviewing every aspect of the campaign plan. They kicked the tires, scrutinized assumptions, and asked every difficult question. And in the end, they concluded that it would be wrong to not move forward, to not try to secure the freedom to marry for Mainers. 

They do not underestimate the challenges.  For starters, we’ve never won at the ballot.  Winning is far from a sure thing — it never has been on this cause, whether we were seeking to prevail in the legislature or at the ballot.  And secondly, there are many competing demands for funding and attention this year.  But they feel confident that these challenges can be met and that we are ready to do so. 7

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2012-FEB-02: Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) spoke in Congress about the Maine referendum :

She talked about the thousands of same-sex couples living in Maine:

"They share homes and they raise children together, they remain committed to each other through the ups and downs of life. But because they are same-sex couples, they are denied the right to honor their love and commitment to each other through marriage. This fall Maine will have a chance to change that and to join a growing list of states throughout the country that are setting aside discrimination and granting all couples the same right to get married. We’ve made progress here in Congress on ending discriminatory practices like 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' but it will be up to us in Maine to bring marriage equality to our state. 8

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Site navigation:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Eric Russell, "Signature-gathering campaign to begin on Maine same-sex marriage initiative," Bangor Daily News, 2011-AUG-17, at: http://bangordailynews.com/
  2. "Maine gay marriage supporters get 5,200 signatures, 2011-AUG-21, Boston Globe, at: http://articles.boston.com/
  3. Carlos Santoscoy, "Campaign to win gay marriage in Maine secures sufficient signatures," On Top magazine, 2011-NOV-09, at: http://www.ontopmag.com/
  4. "Maine Question 1 narrowly leads; voters want gay marriage," Public Policy Polling, 2011-NOV-02, at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/
  5. Andrew Harmon, "Marriage Equality Advocates Ready for Maine Referendum ," The Advocate, 2012-JAN-26, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  6. Thomas Peters, "With Gay Marriage Advocates Filing a SSM Initiative in Maine..." National Organization for Marriage, 2012-JAN-26, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
  7. Marc Solomon, "Op-ed: It's time to win in Maine," The Advocate, 2012-JAN-26, at: http://www.advocate.com/
  8. Andrew Harmon. "Maine Congresswoman Speaks for Marriage on House Floor," The Advocate, 2012-FEB-03, at: http://www.advocate.com/

Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-JUL-04
Latest update: 2012-FEB-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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