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Breaking: EqualityMaine to put marriage equality question on 2012 ballot

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

EqualityMaine announced that it would deliver over 105,000 signatures to the Maine Secretary of State today supporting the inclusion of a marriage equality measure on the 2012 ballot.  The group needed 57,000 signatures for the measure to qualify.

In a press call this morning, GLAD and EqualityMaine said that a late December poll showed 54 percent of Mainers support the right of same-sex couples to legally marry, with 42 percent opposed.  That poll reinforces the findings of two other polls in February and May of 2011, both of which showed 53 percent support for marriage equality.  EqualityMaine plans to spend the rest of the year continuing to build support for the measure before it goes to voters in 2012.

Once the Secretary of State has received the signatures, there is a 30-day public comment period on the measure.  After that, unless changes are proposed, the ballot measure would move forward.

The Citizens Initiative that will be on the 2012 ballot is called “An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom.”  The proposed ballot language, which was submitted to the Secretary of State in June, reads as follows:

Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and that protects religious freedom by ensuring that no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?

Over the last year, EqualityMaine’s Field Director, Amy Mello, has conducted a campaign throughout the state to change the hearts and minds of Mainers through conversations about marriage equality.  That campaign has had a success rate of over 20 percent.

We’ve written here at P8TT before against putting the rights of minorities up to a popular vote.  Maine’s unique political system, however, makes a popular vote on the issue a practical necessity.  The Citizens Initiative power in the state is used liberally, and it is important to note that marriage equality already went through Maine’s legislative process and was signed into law.  At this point, the final say on the matter must come from the people.

I asked Betsy Smith, EqualityMaine’s Executive Director, about the possibility of the Tea Party-controlled legislature putting a competing ballot measure (for example, one that proposed civil unions) on the ballot in order to split the vote and cause a marriage equality provision to fail.  In her eyes, it is highly unlikely the legislature could so.  A competing bill would need majority support in the legislature, and would clearly be opposed by both pro-marriage advocates and those members who are against even allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.  EqualityMaine has been working to ensure that their measure is the only marriage-related question on the November ballot.

Because 2012 is an election year, it’s likely there will be a significant voter turnout in Maine, a state that is remarkably consistent in the number of voters who come out for presidential elections with some of the highest turnout in the nation.  A marriage equality measure has a better chance of success with this year’s electorate than it did in 2009, an off-election year.  Still, there are specific demographics EqualityMaine is targeting to build support for the measure, among them the parents of young children, young men in particular, independents and rural voters.

With this exciting announcement, Maine joins the group of states that are making 2012 an exciting year for marriage equality.  We’ll have more here at P8TT on marriage equality in Maine as the campaign moves forward!

34 Comments

  • 1. fiona64  |  January 26, 2012 at 9:17 am

    More "vote on GLBT rights and reiterate the first amendment" stuff? ::sigh:: Sometimes I wonder why I ever read the Constitution, what with people a) insisting that the first amendment will be ignored and b) that the 14th doesn't exist — via their actions, if not their words.

    Maybe I've reached a level of compassion fatigue or something, but this actually irritates me enough that I wonder why I bother. As long as GLBT folks and their allies (like me) are willing to pander to the religious reich and those who live in their amygdalas (fear-based reptilian brain) instead of their cortex (thinking, rational brain), this crap will go on forever. :-(

  • 2. Sean  |  January 26, 2012 at 9:36 am

    This is great news! I wonder if Oregon will reverse their decision not to go with a ballot initative this year if Washington successfully legalizes gay marriage?

  • 3. Seth from Maryland  |  January 26, 2012 at 10:35 am

    In other marriage news, NC Governor Bev Perdue is not seeking reelection this year. This is significant because the anti gay amendment was scheduled to go on the May 8 primary ballot which Repub legislators thought would ensure its passage as there was no dem candidate on the ballot. Now the tables have turned. The Repub Presidential nominee may be a foregone conclusion at that point, and they should have a competitive dem gov. primary. That means more dems at the polls than repubs for the vote. This could be a huge turning point for them Lets hope the professional activists still don't write NC off as a lost cause. This changes everything

  • 4. rocketeer500  |  January 26, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I wish EqualityMaine all the best. I don't think popular votes are in our best interest. I'm not discounting the massive effort put forth by EqualityMaine, and I have sent several donations to them already, but putting civil rights on the ballot is not in anyone's best interests.

    “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” —
    Thomas Jefferson

  • 5. jpmassar  |  January 26, 2012 at 10:52 am

    We’ve written here at P8TT before against putting the rights of minorities up to a popular vote. Maine’s unique political system, however, makes a popular vote on the issue a practical necessity.

    I will only point out the New Jersey's "unique political system" makes a popular vote on the issue a practical necessity. Maine, just as well as New Jersey, could wait for a Democratic Governor and get legislation passed. Maine, just as well as New Jersey, could initiate a lawsuit seeking to overturn bias on the basis of their constitution.

    There is no practical difference between Maine's situation and New Jersey's, except that Maine has a group of dedicated volunteers and organizers that went out and gathered signatures and are willing to work themselves to exhaustion to make sure they are victorious in November.

  • 6. Mackenzie  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Unfortunately they have no other choice there unless/until the Federal Supreme Court would make a ruling. I totally agree with your position, sadly we have no other options.

  • 7. chris hogan  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I don't care how long it takes. We only have to win ONE of these, and it will shatter the "let the people vote" meme from the anti-gay side.

  • 8. allen  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I prefer to avoid popular votes for equality, but your quote refers to taking away rights. What EqualityMaine is attempting is to restore rights. I think that is an important distinction.

  • 9. Bryce  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:22 am

    We already did: Arizona 2006. We lost when it was reput up to a vote in 08, but we did win one. We just let them get away with saying otherwise.
    (It infuriates me that they get away with it, as that is what my dissertation is on.)

  • 10. jonc  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Maine already had SSM passed by our legislature & signed into law by our Governor (first time nationally that was done, btw…), but it only took 57,000 or so signatures to put a "people's veto" on the ballot that November, where it was overturned by a 30,000-vote margin before it could ever take effect.

  • 11. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I couldn't agree with you more! I am really tired of civil rights being put to a popular vote.

  • 12. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:42 am

    There is no such thing as Gay marriage or Straight Marriage it is simply marriage…mariage equality

  • 13. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    We here in Washington also won on a peoples vote in 2010 when the voters of Washington upheld the Domestic partnership rights for SS couples by defeting the attempt to roll back our rights with Ref 71.
    NOM and their 'friends' don't seem to ever like to mention that. The people got to vote and they voted to do the right thing. This is why I have no doubt that IF we gain Marriage Equality here in WA, and the H8rs try and stop this with another referendum we will handely defeat it.

  • 14. Bryce  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    True, but the Arizona ones were both marriage. Even the news gets it wrong a lot.

  • 15. Leo  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I thought the first one in Arizona was both marriage and civil unions, and that got voted down. The second one was just marriage and it passed.

  • 16. Stefan  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    In 06 it was about marriage and civil unions. In 08 it was about just marriage.

  • 17. Stefan  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Not IF, but WHEN. It's confirmed that the votes are their to pass both chambers.

  • 18. Lesbians Love Boies  |  January 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    in 2006 Proposition 107 was an attempt to ban Same Sex marriage and lost. This was good for us. The 2008 Proposition 102 was defining marriage as one man and one woman and won – bad for us.

    here is an article on it: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/12/02/opinion

  • 19. Leo  |  January 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Yes, but what I'm saying is that Proposition 107 in 2006, which lost, was an attempt to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions (and arguably lost because of that), while Proposition 102 in 2008, which won, was just to ban same-sex marriage.

  • 20. Lesbians Love Boies  |  January 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I see what you are saying now – yes!

  • 21. 415kathleenk  |  January 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I wish the Mainers the best of luck in their campaign. In the absence of a coordinated national strategy and with the varying situations in every state, i believe these decisions are best left to the state organizations. Like most people, i think putting civil rights to a popular vote is not a good idea. I Maine's situation is different- as was pointed out above- they are looking to reverse the vote of two years ago. We know how much change can happen in two years. It seems like they have a good shot at winning this time- not that its a slam dunk but i say go for it.

  • 22. Theo  |  January 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    *BINGO*, Allen~

  • 23. Theo McKinney-Ewing  |  January 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    And remember, in CA marriage equality was legislatively recognized not once, but TWICE in CA, only to be vetoed by one "man" (AHnold) not once, but TWICE.

    Voted into law, by representatives who won their offices with bonafide voter majorities, one and all, only to be blocked note once, but TWICE with the single vote of a man who "won" the governor's office with the approval of only 35% of the voters behind him.

    That's what makes the Antigay's cry of "foul" over the striking of Flop 8 as an "Affront to the will of the voters" so maddening.

    But then again, anything these shills say, when analyzed outright, falls apart. Seems to be the way things of are going in both Federal court, AND the court of public opinion. Even in May, NC is no sure thing. Which is hilarious, if you're already 1 of 2 of 18,000 happily married in CA and recognized permanently BECAUSE Flop 8 "passed"…by a "majority" that NO LONGER EXISTS IN CA!

  • 24. Theo McKinney-Ewing  |  January 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    2012 = 1968.

    There IS no going backwards, merely because "certain Americans" may or may not cause certain "Other Amerikkans" to feel squeamish – for outrageous "reasons" they will never be able to coherently explain…

    Antigay gaffs and blunders are doomed to go viral this campaign season, and not in a good way, if beating up on gay households used to be political gold. Cuz it ain't the 20th Century NOOOO Mo.

    Adjust, Antigays. Or don't. Won't matter. (that's REALLY the part they H8…They'll squeam and no one will care!)

    Tough break for the H8; quite excellent for the rest of us~

  • 25. Rich  |  January 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    It was all over the news tonight and the excitement was palpable. Twice as many petitions as necessary were delivered in boxes to the State Capitol. Each box was labeled with the town from which it originated…they cover the entire state. Individuals of all ages carried them into the building and the excitement was infectious. The one opponent interviewed (a spokesman for the Catholic Church) delivered the usual drivel surrounding the history of marriage. The other hugh news today is that the states largest paper (Portland Press Herald) featured an editorial contribution by a University Professor/Catholic Church columnist for their Church paper in which he says that the Church in Maine cannot take another hit like they did the last time this vote went to the people. He spells out the damage done with the many parishoners who quit their Church in anger, the money (NOM) spent and then lost because the faithful were not faithful out of anger and the loss of credibility to the
    Bishop and the larger Church in Rome. The timing could not have been more perfect. The long and short of this is that NOM has pledged to fight this new measure…the best of this is that, now, we know who they are and if you access their site they are crowing that they contributed 2 million to the defeat 3 years ago. What our state will now come to realize is that the 2 million bought lies, fear and hatred and it won't happen again!

  • 26. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  January 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Still not a done deal….so my IF stands (for me at least)

  • 27. Leo  |  January 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Question about the process: The ballot language quoted here isn't the proposed law. What about the statute itself?

    Am I correct that Equality Maine gets to write the law and submit it to the legislature, and the legislature can either approve it (fat chance), reject it completely, or write a competing version, after which it goes to the referendum? If so, what's the timeline? When does EQME have to submit the statutory language? Is it prepared already? How long does the legislature have to act on it?

  • 28. candide001  |  January 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    But how are you planning to get that information out to the low information voter? The winning strategy is to start confronting the lies put out by the Christians who are anti-gay. In the past EqualityMaine has not had the courage to take this step.

  • 29. Stefan  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    I would bet my next paycheck that at least one of the 4 undecided Senators will vote in favor.

  • 30. Stefan  |  January 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    Exactly. Here in Minnesota we've been doing this and we've already moved over 10% to our side.

  • 31. _BK_  |  January 27, 2012 at 5:43 am

    Does anyone have an analysis of this information? I've tried finding more on this subject but haven't been able to locate anything… It sounds very, very promising, though.

  • 32. grod  |  January 31, 2012 at 3:18 am

    Thanks for your comment, particularly in reference to the Catholic Church.
    Committees opposing Question 1 raised $5.7 million—68 percent more than the $3.4 million raised by proponents. So, it was not because of a lack of financial support, that the day was not carried by pro-equality. . Opponents of the measure raised money from over 10,000 donors—12 times more than proponents reported. Out-of-state donors contributed $3.3 million to oppose the measure. Donations came from all 50 states; http://www.followthemoney.org/press/Reports/Maine

  • 33. grod  |  January 31, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Rich, I was interested in your comment "NOM has pledged to fight this new measure…" Will Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices permit their involvement, given that there is a lawsuit pending at the 1st Circuit regarding NOM's challenge to the 'Ballot Question Committee' laws. And given that last August, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state of Maine re NOM’s involvement in the 2010 election . Tom Knowlton, an assistant state attorney general who serves as counsel for the Maine Ethics Commission said. "The 1st Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Maine's laws that require the disclosure of contributions and expenditures in candidate elections by PACs and by independent groups." … "There is another lawsuit pending at the 1st Circuit regarding NOM's challenge to the 'Ballot Question Committee' laws, that deals with laws requiring disclosures of expenditures and contributions in connection with the ballot question from 2009. The court no doubt will rule again NOM before Nov 2012.

  • 34. grod  |  January 31, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Leo while I do not know the percise answer to your very insightful questions, I going to point you to http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Maine_2012_… where your questions can be answered.
    Good luck. If you find something, why not post it to the current blog. Regulars Richard and Dave are from Maine and they might pick it up there and provide further insight. G

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