AUGUSTA, Maine (BP)–A ballot measure that would overturn Maine’s “gay marriage” law officially qualified for the ballot Wednesday, putting the state on course for a historic November vote.
It will be the first time the issue has been put on the ballot in the liberal Northeast, a region that has largely embraced the “gay rights” movement. Maine either will become the first state to affirm “gay marriage” at the ballot, or the second one — following California — to legalize such unions, then reverse course.
The measure is sure to capture the attention of both sides of the debate nationally, particularly being that 2009 is an off-year election with little else on ballots in other states. Several homosexual activist groups in California already have urged their members to donate to Protect Maine Equality, the group working to keep “gay marriage” legal.
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Sept. 2 that the measure, called a People’s Veto, had qualified for the ballot. Dunlap’s office stopped validating signatures after 60,391 — well more than the 55,087 required — were considered legal. Stand for Marriage Maine, the official proponent of the measure, turned in roughly 100,000 signatures in late July. Involvement by the state’s Protestant and Catholic churches was critical, those in the state said.
The People’s Veto, if passed, would reverse a law legalizing “gay marriage signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci in May. It has not gone into effect and won’t do so until voters have a say. The measure will be known as Question 1 on the ballot. Maine is one of but a handful of states that allow citizens to gather signatures to overturn laws.
“More than 100,000 Mainers signed petitions to do what the legislature and governor did not: allow the people of Maine to participate in the decision of legalizing homosexual marriage,” Marc Mutty, Stand for Marriage Maine campaign chairman, said in a statement. “Preserving the definition of marriage as between a man and woman is far too important an issue to be left solely in the hands of elected officials, without the input, consent or, perhaps, even knowledge of Mainers.”
Very little public polling has been done in the state on the issue, and none since Baldacci signed the bill into law. A Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll of 400 Maine adults in April found that given three options, 39 percent supported “gay marriage,” 34.5 percent same-sex civil unions and 23 percent opposed all legal recognition for homosexual couples.
Although Stand for Marriage Maine has yet to air its first ad, Protect Maine Equality has released two. In one TV ad, a young teenage boy is seen with his two lesbian parents, urging citizens to vote against the measure. In another ad, a father tells the story of his two daughters, one who is straight and the other lesbian.
The delay by Stand for Marriage Maine in advertising isn’t unusual, nor a cause for much concern by conservatives. Supporters of California Proposition 8 didn’t release their first TV ad last year until the final week of September, at a time when a Field Poll showed them trailing by 17 points. From that point forward, they flooded the airwaves with a consistent message warning about the consequences of “gay marriage” legalization: churches could lose their tax exemption, “gay marriage” could be taught in schools, people could be sued over their personal beliefs. Prop 8 passed at the ballot, 52-48 percent. In fact, those same points are listed on the Stand for Marriage Maine website, under the heading, “The Threat to Marriage.”
“The most vulnerable among us to the consequences of legalizing homosexual marriage are children,” the website states. “If marriage is redefined to be genderless, then same-sex marriage must be taught as being the same as traditional marriage.”
The website recounts the story of the Wirthlins, a Massachusetts couple whose son and second-grade class were read a book (“King & King”) about a prince “marrying” another prince. The school refused to give them advance notice in the future when such books were read, and the Wirthlins lost a federal lawsuit.
Although Stand for Marriage Maine hasn’t aired its first ad, it has been conducting door-to-door canvassing each weekend, spreading — in the words of its e-mails — the “message that traditional marriage should be defended.” It conducted its first canvas Aug. 22.
Including Maine, six states have legalized “gay marriage.” But all of those took place either due to state court rulings of legislative-enacted laws. On the flip side, 30 states have passed constitutional amendments preventing the redefinition of marriage. Every state that has voted on a marriage amendment has eventually passed it. Maine had no such amendment.
Joey Marshall, pastor of Living Stone Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Standish, Maine, previously told Baptist Press that Catholics, Protestants and conservative citizens have come together on the issue.
“There has been such an outpouring of support for the People’s Veto because this marriage law not only affects those claiming to gain equality,” Marshall told Baptist Press, “but it also changes society forever by degrading the traditional family values that Mainers have been trying to instill in their children for years. People are crying out because government should not legislate something that the people do not support.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information about how to help pass Question 1, visit www.standformarriagemaine.com.