AUGUSTA – Supporters of traditional marriage will gather in Capitol Park on July 14 for a rally to kick off a 19-city nationwide Summer for Marriage Tour.

Bob Emrich, a Baptist minister and one of two men who led the successful repeal of Maine’s gay marriage law in November, is the local organizer. He’s working with the National Organization for Marriage on the Maine rally.

“I keep hearing all the time about how marriage is going to come up again (in the Legislature),” he said. “I thought it would be a good idea to remind people.”

In May 2009, Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill into law to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Maine after lawmakers in both the House and Senate gave it final approval. The following day, Emrich and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland launched a signature drive to put the issue before voters in November.

Voters rejected the new law by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.

But supporters of same-sex marriage rights said they would continue to work on the issue, promising to bring it back in the near future. Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, said they are reaching out to voters.

“We’re doing what we’ve always done: talking one-on-one with Mainers about why they should support fairness and equality,” she said

Smith said she doesn’t think it’s right that the National Organization for Marriage, which contributed nearly $2 million to the repeal effort, is planning to come back to Maine. The group has filed suit in state and federal court to object to Maine’s campaign finance laws, which require disclosure of donor names.

“Here NOM is, a national organization out of New Jersey, coming to Maine once again to tell Mainers they should not support fairness and equality for their gay and lesbian neighbors,” she said.

Emrich said NOM’s executive director, Brian Brown, asked if Maine could be part of the tour. A group called Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman helps raise money for NOM and included a message about the tour on its website.

“For too long have we been members of a silent majority, watching the news in disdain as one state after another legalizes gay marriage,” wrote Louis J. Marinelli, director of operations. “For too long have we considered our mere membership in a Facebook group or our signature on an online petition to be sufficient to counter the liberal-progressive attack on our traditions and values.”

After leaving Maine, the tour is scheduled to travel to Concord, N.H.; Albany, N.Y.; Providence, R.I.; Trenton, N.J.; and several other stops as far west as St. Louis. It is scheduled to end Aug. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Emrich said a court case pending in California will likely make same-sex marriage a federal issue. Regardless, he wants to make sure Mainers are aware of what’s going on. He also wants gay marriage to become an issue in the fall governor’s race.

“I think it needs to be an issue in the campaign,” he said. “It needs to be an issue in the culture.”

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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