Mainers Near Widely Watched Vote on Gay Marriage

In the days leading up to the highly publicized vote on a Maine gay marriage law, citizens are being called to respect one another's First Amendment rights.

"While the issue of same-sex marriage stirs lots of passions on both sides of the debate, one thing that should be clear is that citizens should feel free to support groups that share and advance their views without fear of recrimination enabled by government," said Sean Parnell, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, in a statement Friday.

His statement comes as a complaint was filed against a high school guidance counselor and licensed social worker, requesting that his license to practice social work be stripped away.

The complaint was filed by a co-worker after Donald Mendell appeared in a television ad supporting traditional marriage in Maine.

"It is ironic that those who claim tolerance as their highest value prove themselves to be so intolerant that they would go so far as to threaten a father's career and put his family's future at risk," said Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine. "This latest attack highlights the true agenda of those who demand that marriage be redefined."

Alliance Defense attorney Austin R. Nimocks said the definition of marriage is not the only thing at issue in the upcoming vote. Free speech, freedom of conscience, and religious liberty are also in danger, he noted.

On Nov. 3, Maine voters will go to the ballot to decide on whether to repeal or uphold a law allowing same-sex marriage. The measure was passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci in May.

Before the law could go into effect in September, opponents submitted enough signatures for a "people's veto," subjecting the measure to repeal.

Following California's recent marriage battle, in which the majority of voters supported traditional marriage, all eyes have shifted to Maine which could be the first state to affirm same-sex marriage with a popular vote.

Marriage for same-sex couples is legal in five other states but the measures were all passed by the respective state high courts or Legislatures, not by popular vote.

"We have people who want to make a legal commitment, take on responsibilities, who want to be a family," said Mary Bonauto of Protect Maine Equality in a televised debate Wednesday. "Why would anyone in Maine want to stand in the way of those families and their happiness?"

Brian Souchet of Stand for Marriage Maine, meanwhile, argued, "No special interest group should be able to hijack the institution of marriage to suit their own needs. In my opinion, that's exactly what we have going on here."

Millions of dollars have been raised by both campaigns opposing and supporting the ballot measure, Question One. Polls have indicated that the battle is currently in dead heat.