PORTLAND — Steve Abbott, a former candidate for Maine governor and the current athletic director at the University of Maine, said Thursday he’s joining other prominent Republicans who support the same-gender marriage proposal on this fall’s ballot.
He joins other new members of Republicans United for Marriage, including Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and Kenneth Lindell, a former state representative from Frankfort. Republican state Rep. Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield already has announced in TV ads that he will vote for the measure. Fitts voted against a 2009 gay marriage referendum but says has since changed his mind.
Mainers United for Marriage and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine announced the new supporters at news conferences in Portland and Bangor. The Facebook group, Maine Republicans for Equal Marriage, boasts more than 1,000 followers.
“As a Republican, I value personal responsibility and believe that the family is the foundation of our community. That’s why I support the freedom to marry for all, loving committed couples in Maine,” Abbott, who ran for governor in 2010, said in a statement.
The issue of gay marriage, which Maine voters will decide on Nov. 6, marks a sharp dividing line between the Democratic and Republican parties. In their statement of party principles, Democrats support gay marriage, while the Republican platform that also was adopted this spring supports marriages of one man, one woman.
While Republicans who support same-gender marriage may seem out-of-step with their party, platforms are in no way binding, and party members, including candidates, frequently waver from platform statements.
Dan Demeritt, former director of communications for GOP Gov. Paul LePage, said he supports the right of gay couples to get marriage licenses for both personal and political reasons.
“I am a proud and devoted dad of young boys. I want them to grow up and have wives and kids of their own. But if they take a different path, I want Maine law to provide the same support for them, as I know I will,” Demeritt said.
A message left for Carroll Conley Jr. of the Christian Civic League of Maine, who is helping to lead the opposition, was not immediately returned Thursday.
But opponents have been active on the Internet and in debates. They also are airing TV ads. The website maine4marriage.org said its opponents are trying to redefine marriage “in the most radical way imaginable.”
“Anyone who is currently supporting same-sex marriage must first understand that marriage is one of society’s most fundamental social institutions,” the website says.
Maine voters will join those in Maryland and Washington state in deciding whether to legalize same-sex marriage. In Minnesota, voters will decide on a ballot measure that would ban gay marriage by amending the state constitution.