PORTLAND, Maine (BP)–Maine’s citizens apparently will get to decide the future of “gay marriage” in November.
A coalition that is collecting signatures to place on the ballot a “People’s Veto” initiative overturning the state’s “gay marriage” said Wednesday they have passed the critical threshold of 55,000 signatures — the number required to qualify the effort — just four weeks after starting.
The coalition, known as Stand for Marriage Maine, will continue collecting signatures throughout the rest of the month to serve as a cushion, because hundreds if not thousands could be thrown out as invalid. Nevertheless, the fact that the coalition collected so many in so short a time span shows a significant number of citizens want to reverse the law, which was signed by the Democratic governor in early May. The law has not gone into effect and won’t do so until the citizens’ vote, assuming it does in fact qualify.
“We look forward to submitting the measure for certification and engaging Mainers in a vigorous defense of marriage,” said Bob Emrich, founder of the Maine Jeremiah Project and an executive committee member of Stand for Marriage Maine. “Traditional marriage has never lost on the ballot in any state. We expect it to prevail in Maine.”
Maine’s unique “People’s Veto” law — a part of the state constitution — allows citizens to gather signatures to try to overturn recently enacted legislation. Churches have been critical to the current People’s Veto drive.
Carole Edgerly, a pastor’s wife who is helping lead the signature drive at Farmington (Maine) Baptist Church, says the outpouring of support thus far has been “amazing.”
“We’re not going to quit,” she told Baptist Press, referring to the fact that the threshold has been crossed.
Although people in that Southern Baptist congregation have signed the signatures, it’s been their desire to recruit others that has most impressed Edgerly. One church member has gathered more than 100 signatures while attending senior citizen functions and other gatherings. Another church member collected signatures during a yard sale.
“Our church would not be as effective in obtaining People’s Veto petition signatures without” such efforts, Edgerly said.
Maine is being closely watched nationally on the issue because of its liberal leanings. It last went Republican during a presidential election in 1988 and has, like much of the Northeast, drifted leftward culturally. On this issue, “gay marriage” opponents might be able to win there, as they did in California last year, another left-leaning state that last voted Republican in ’88.
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.
The debate in Maine may mirror that of California, where conservatives flooded the airwaves warning about the consequences if “gay marriage” is legalized, asserting that it would be taught in public schools as normative, as it has been in Massachusetts, where “gay marriage” also is legal.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about the People’s Veto effort, visit Standformarriagemaine.com. To read how “gay marriage” impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here.