PORTLAND — Mayor Michael Brennan told gay-marriage supporters Monday that he hopes his city will be the first to host same-sex marriages if a statewide ballot initiative to allow them passes in November.

“We can’t be the kind of community we want to be until everybody has the right to marry,” he said at a rally on the steps of City Hall, organized by Mainers United for Marriage, the leading group supporting same-sex marriage.

With eight weeks to go until the Nov. 6 election, the campaign released T-shirts, bumper stickers and signs as it encouraged volunteers to talk to voters about why same-sex marriage is important to them.

More than 200 people gathered for the rally, waving signs and listening as gay-marriage supporters spoke about why they want Maine to be the first state to pass a ballot initiative on gay marriage.

Opponents responded to the rally by saying they will warn Mainers about what they believe will be negative effects on children if gay marriage becomes legal in Maine.

“I believe this is a time to strengthen and protect marriage rather than redefining it,” said Carroll Conley of Protect Marriage Maine, the leading opposition group. “It’s very important to talk about the consequences of redefining marriage.”

In a news release, Protect Marriage Maine said children “do best when raised by married moms and dads.”

“A man and a woman bring separate but complementary skills to parenting that simply cannot be matched by two parents of the same sex,” said Bob Emrich, chairman of Protect Marriage Maine. “It’s devastating that radical activists are putting their own political agenda ahead of what’s clearly best for current and future generations of Mainers.”

Although the most recent campaign finance reports, filed in July, showed a substantial fundraising lead for gay-marriage supporters — $1.6 million to $77,850 — Conley said the National Organization for Marriage has begun a $500,000 matching grant program to raise money in Maine.

“The good thing is, it’s created excitement in the state and a good number of people have organized house meetings,” Conley said.

Previously, the National Organization for Marriage pledged $1.5 million to be spread among the four states — Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington — that will vote on gay marriage in November.

Conley also confirmed that opponents of same-sex marriage have booked time for television ads that will likely begin airing later this month.

Gay-marriage supporters, specifically Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, have already aired two ads.

Last week, Protect Marriage Maine spent $199,444 for television ad time in the Portland market, according to TV station records. The group’s TV advertising will begin running around Oct. 15 and continue through Election Day.

At Monday’s rally, retired Episcopal Rev. Will Brewster said he and his wife began to support gay marriage after their son told them he is gay.

“No parent dreams about their child entering into a domestic partnership,” he said. “We dream about them being married.”

Mainers United For Marriage’s campaign manager, Matt McTighe, encouraged supporters to donate money, even if they already have given.

“Our community has never won a ballot campaign like this one, and as opponents of marriage are so fond of saying, they have never lost,” he said. “Together, we can change that on Election Day. We can kick the last leg out from the stool they’ve stood on to belittle our relationships and attack our families for years.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com