Thursday, June 20, 2013
BANGOR – Gay-marriage supporters said Wednesday that more groups have joined their effort, a sign, they say, that they are gaining momentum heading toward the Nov. 6 election.
The Mainers United for Marriage coalition started with 25 members in January, and now stands at 77, said campaign manager Matt McTighe.
"We can feel the energy around our campaign grow every day," he said on the steps of the Bangor Public Library. "We have thousands of supporters and volunteers who are hard at work to make sure that all loving, committed couples in Maine can get married."
Among the coalition partners are the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Holocaust & Human Rights Center of Maine, League of Women Voters of Maine, and the Maine Education Association. Also, nearly 350 members of the clergy and faith communities representing 20 denominations have signed a statement saying they support gay marriage rights.
Bob Emrich, chairman of gay-marriage opponents Protect Marriage Maine, said he doesn't see any big swing in momentum among Maine voters on the issue. In 2009, Mainers repealed a gay-marriage law, 53 percent to 47 percent.
"They are making a lot of pronouncements and holding a lot of press conferences," he said. "They are much better at press conferences and press releases than we are. I don't think anything has changed at all."
McTighe also pointed to a Portland Press Herald poll that had 57 percent of respondents saying they support approving the ballot question, 35 percent opposed and eight percent undecided.
Emrich said a Father's Day fundraising drive at churches across the state took in about $40,000. So far, gay-marriage supporters have raised about $480,000 in cash while opponents have brought in $51,400. Updated numbers will be made public next week, following a Tuesday reporting deadline.
The press conference, which was attended by about 50 people, came two days after the public comment period on the wording of proposed ballot question ended. Secretary of State Charlie Summers issued the question -- "Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?" -- last month, which kicked-off a comment period that drew more than 660 responses.
While there was no clear consensus among commenters, a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality released a statement Wednesday urging Summers to change the wording to include in the question that clergy can refuse to marry same-sex couples if it conflicts with their beliefs.
Emrich said he wishes the question had included language to make it clear to voters that they would be redefining marriage if they vote to approve same-sex marriage rights. But, he does not think the question should include references to the exemption, calling it misleading and redundant.
"I would be surprised if (Summers) changes it," he said.
Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at: