Gay marriage advocates, capitalizing on the New York same-sex marriage law, on Thursday launched a campaign backed by a Methodist pastor seeking a referendum to bring gay rights back to Maine.
EqualityMaine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced the launch of what they called a citizen’s initiative to bring marriage equality back to the voters of Maine in 2012, the same-sex marriage advocacy groups said at a press conference in Lewistown Thursday.
Preparations for the referendum had been going on for 18 months seeking support for “marriage equality,” they said.
Pastor Michael Gray from the Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church filed paperwork with election authorities to start the process of gathering over 57,000 signatures to put the issue 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?” reads the cautious language submitted to the Secretary of State for review.
“Once the Sec. of State certifies the language, EqualityMaine will then collect 57,277 signatures to get the question on the ballot in November,” the gay advocacy groups said in a statement.
But opponents are confident they can defeat the attempt to distort traditional marriage in Maine. The Christian Civic League said many groups were “more than ready to defend traditional marriage in the State of Maine.”
“Our ranks have grown as Mainers come to understand what the LGBT agenda means for families and our children’s sexual education in the public schools. We know that they will repress our religious freedom to remove our children from such classes,” said Carroll Conley Jr., Executive Director of Christian Civic League of Maine.
Conley said the they would “expose” EqualityMaine for their “extreme intolerance against Catholics and Bible-believing Christians,” he was quoted by The Record of the Maine Family Policy Council as saying.
Mainers repealed a same-sex marriage law in November 2009 through a referendum, six months after the legislation was passed in the state.
Marc Mutty, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said Mainers should not be put through “what will likely be another divisive drawn-out campaign” after the 2009 referendum.
“The people of this country have rejected same-sex marriage in all cases in which it has been put on the ballot. There’s no reason why we should expect a different outcome this time,” he was quoted as saying.
EqualityMaine’s executive director Betsey Smith believes “many Mainers have changed their hearts and continue to change their minds.”
“We have been going door to door talking to them and hearing their journey towards support.”
Smith also claimed that two separate polls conducted this year showed that 53 percent of Mainers support marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in the state.
“We believe there’s strong support for marriage in Maine. We believe that all families deserve the right to marry. The longer we wait, the longer we delay this right of loving and committed couples to marry,” Associated Press quoted Matt McTighe from GLAD as saying.
The gay rights groups featured a video of the Methodist pastor explaining why he supported the gay agenda. “Whose marriage I have learnt from the most? I have to say my in-laws of all the people. They’ve been married for a very long time. They are not perfect people but they love and support each other more than anybody I know… Over time I have learned that people who are gay are the same… There is no difference between them and us,” Pastor Gray said.
Changes to marriage law will not affect “how different religions choose to define [marriage] within their religious right,” added Gray, the former Limbaugh Republican who is now a supporter of gay rights.
Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, would argue differently.
While acknowledging that "gay people are perfectly capable of entering into loving, committed caretaking unions," she contended in a commentary on USA Today that "that does not justify government involvement or coercion of third parties to recognize these non-marital relationships as marriages."
"Marriage," she maintained, "is rooted in real differences between same-sex and opposite-sex unions. Only a union of husband and wife can make new life, and connect those children in love to their mother and father. Society – and government – have a unique interest in promoting marriage to further this goal."
According to The Portland Press Herald, about 30 other Methodist clergy members in Maine signed a statement supporting gay rights in June. Last week, a jury of Methodist clergy members suspended for 20 days the Rev. Amy DeLong for officiating a wedding for a gay couple in violation of church law.