March 4, 2010

Fight goes on over marriageHeadline goez right hereey ovr this linee heree pleez thnx you


— By . COVER

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Matt Moonen hugs Taryn Friedman after a press conference on the steps Portland City Hall on Wednesday, November 4, 2009. Both worked on the No on 1 campaign, which lost its effort to uphold Maine's gay marriage law.

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Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: Pat Peard, president of the No On 1 campaign, speaks during a press conference on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at Portland City Hall after losing the referendum to uphold the gay marriage law in Maine.

Kennebec Journal

PORTLAND — Hours after accepting defeat at the polls, supporters of same-sex marriage vowed Wednesday to continue the fight.

Sharing hugs and tears, about 200 supporters of same-sex marriage gathered on the steps of City Hall to say they will continue the effort as long as it's necessary.

A new law allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry was repealed Tuesday with 53 percent of the vote.

''Are we disappointed? Yes. We feel deeply what happened to us last night,'' said Pat Peard, a longtime champion of gay rights.

She thanked the 250,000 or so Mainers who voted to retain the law.

''I assure you that we are going to build in the future to a bigger number,'' Peard told the crowd. ''We will win this issue.''

Maine voters made it clear Tuesday that they don't support expanding the definition of marriage in Maine to include same-sex couples.

Peard and other leaders didn't discuss specific plans, but said they hope to continue the dialogue with Maine residents that began years ago.

In a statement issued later in the afternoon, supporters said those efforts will include ''statewide public education'' such as a family storybook and a project that encourages parents to talk to other parents about equality.

The groups, including EqualityMaine and the Maine Civil Liberties Union, also said they will work with supportive religious leaders to organize presentations to various groups.

Supporters can bring a bill back to the Legislature in 2011 or pursue court action. The timing and method would depend largely on who gets elected governor next year, and whether the Legislature continues to be in Democrats' hands.

Sen. Peter Mills, R-Cornville, said he feels it was a mistake not to send the issue directly to voters.

Mills, who is running for governor, voted in favor of the legislation.

''They really couldn't afford to lose this and they did,'' he said. ''I can't see it coming back for a long time.''

The 2010 election is also important for those who oppose same-sex marriage and want to tighten Maine law further by introducing a constitutional amendment to ban it.

Charla Bansley of Concerned Women for America of Maine said, once they see who wins the legislative races in 2010, they will look for a sponsor for such an amendment.

''I think people get it,'' she said. ''I think people understand marriage is one man and one woman. It's the bedrock of our society.''

Thirty states already ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions.

On the flip side, the New Hampshire and Vermont legislatures have approved gay marriage while courts in Massachusetts, Iowa and Connecticut have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Rev. Bob Emrich, a Yes on 1 organizer, said he doubts the Maine Legislature, which supported same-sex marriage by a large margin, will be eager to take up the issue again given Tuesday's vote.

''A lot of the energy in this was driven by the fact that people felt betrayed by the Legislature,'' he said. ''It was very controversial with the average citizen.''

He said that revisiting the issue soon would ''be a real mistake.''

Earlier this year, advocates proposed legislation to expand the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian couples. The Maine House and Senate approved the bill. Gov. John Baldacci signed it in May.

The next day, a coalition that included the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and evangelical Christians started working to get the signatures they needed for Tuesday's people's veto vote.

Although early results showed a close race Tuesday, by midnight it was clear that the repeal effort would be successful. The Yes on 1 campaign declared victory about 12:30 a.m. and the No on 1 campaign conceded just after 2:30 a.m.

While Mainers voted to overturn a law put in place by legislators, voters in Washington state appear to have supported a measure that became known as ''everything but marriage,'' an expansion of that state's domestic partnership registry.

From the outset, however, Maine's gay-marriage advocates said they would not accept anything but full marriage.

Mary Bonauto, a lawyer and gay advocate who helped run the campaign, said many people are hurting, including couples who have spent decades in committed same-sex relationships.

''Here we are in a civil-rights struggle. And what do we do in civil-rights struggles? We pick ourselves up and we stay the course,'' Bonauto said.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell contributed to this report.

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