AUGUSTA — Gay and lesbian couples in Maine rejoiced Wednesday at the news that President Obama supports same-sex marriage, and said they hope it will give their cause a boost when Mainers vote on the issue again in November.
“I’m really impressed with him for coming out and taking a stand and doing the right thing,” said Donna Galluzzo of Portland, who is engaged to Lisa Gorney. Galluzzo, 48, said they got engaged recently in hopes that they will soon be able to marry legally.
Voters will decide in November whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. In 2009, they voted 53 percent to 47 percent to repeal a law passed by the Legislature to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.
“For me, it’s a very personal issue,” Galluzzo said Wednesday. “We hope the vote this fall will go in our direction.”
Others said that having someone as prominent as the president express support for gay marriage is significant.
“It’s nice to know I can go about my daily life knowing my president believes I have the right to marry,” said Harold Booth of Hallowell, who has been with his partner, Daniel Kelley, for more than 26 years.
Because the president has been open about his decision-making process, it may help people who are aren’t sure whether Maine should allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, said Booth, who is 62.
“Maine voters have similarly been on a journey of their own,” Booth said. “They haven’t been able to say yes yet, but they aren’t slamming the door.”
Jen DeRice, 39, of South Portland has been with her partner for 12 years. They have two children, ages 6 and 4.
She said Obama’s stance “means my president, of my country, believes every family is important and deserves the same rights as every other family.”
DeRice, a volunteer with the campaign to allow gay marriage, said she hopes the president’s position will spark conversation among Mainers. And she said it’s important for her children “to be able to know their parents have the same loving, committed relationship that all the other families at school have.”
Carla Hopkins, who has been with her partner, Victoria Eleftheriou, for 12 years, said she was “nothing short of ecstatic” to hear the president’s support for gay marriage.
The women, who live in Mount Vernon, have a 7-year-old son, Eli. Hopkins said she hopes Maine voters will pay close attention to the way the president came to his decision.
“He got there by talking to family, (and) gay and lesbian people who work for him and with him,” she said. “That kind of one-on-one conversation is what does move people on this.”
But Michael Heath, co-chairman of the No Special Rights political action committee opposing gay marriage, said in an emailed statement that he doesn’t think Obama’s stance on gay marriage will have any impact on the issue in Maine.
“Christians don’t support special rights for people who embrace perversion,” he wrote. “Does this man who occupies our White House hate our way of life so much that he would subvert his own faith and nation? Apparently so.”
Paul Madore, Heath’s co-chairman on the No Special Rights political action committee, told The Associated Press that the president’s announcement was no surprise. He said Obama was finally coming clean after refusing to take a clear stand for months.
“There’s no big surprise there to me, other than that he’s willing to put all of his chips on the table,” said Madore.
Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, which hopes to legalize same-sex marriage, said the president is an example of someone who considered the issue carefully for years, then came to support same-sex marriage.
But McTighe isn’t sure it will swing votes in Maine, because for many people it’s a such a personal issue.
The president serves “as an example to others who are truly struggling” with their decision on the issue, he said.
The battle in Maine will be hard-fought, with at least three groups already formed to oppose gay marriage. In 2009, the two sides spent a total of $9.6 million to influence voters. Similar amounts are expected to be raised and spent this year.
One member of Maine’s congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, issued a statement praising the president for expressing support for gay marriage.
“It’s wonderful that President Obama has taken a position that I and millions of other Americans have long held — that marriage is a basic human right that all Americans deserve,” she said. “As the fight for marriage equality continues here in Maine and around the country, President Obama has sent a clear and strong message that all marriages deserve equal protection.”
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.
State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: email@example.com