August 29, 2012

Maine making history on marriage

Voters will be the first in the U.S. to be asked to approve gay nuptials by popular vote.

By SUSAN M. COVER Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Whitney Gifford of Bucksport leads a group of gay marriage supporters carrying signed petitions to the Secretary of State's office in Augusta on Jan. 26, 2012. Maine voters will be the first in the nation to be asked to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote.

2012 file photo/The Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

click image to enlarge

"It's almost to the point of the theater of the absurd," he said. "This same narrative is trotted out for every single vote."

Brown's organization will contribute to all four campaigns across the country this year, but it won't be able to give as much to the Maine campaign as it did three years ago. That's when NOM donated nearly $2 million to same-sex marriage opponents.

Despite his confidence in voters, Brown said he is concerned that same-sex marriage opponents in Maine won't have a well-funded campaign. So far, same-sex marriage supporters have raised $1.6 million and opponents have only $77,850, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, filed in July.

Nationally, the debate over gay marriage will continue to play out in three arenas for the foreseeable future: the courts, state legislatures, and at the ballot box.

"We don't anticipate any of those three fronts going away," said Jim Campbell, a staff attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group of Christian attorneys who fight same-sex marriage across the country. "We see pro-marriage folks are focused on preserving marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Those seeking to redefine marriage will use all three avenues."

In Minnesota, Republicans who took over the legislature for the first time in decades made a constitutional ban one of their big agenda items, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. Although same-sex marriage is already against state law, supporters of the ban felt they needed to put it in the state constitution, he said.

"The folks opposing the constitutional amendment are very well organized and this is a real battle," he said. "Supporters of the ban have an organizational infrastructure that puts feet on the ground all over Minnesota."

Same-sex marriage supporters say they are worried that a constitutional amendment will delay by years any positive movement on the issue.

"It would theoretically shut down the conversation in our state," said Kate Brickman, press secretary for Minnesotans United for All Families, the campaign to defeat the amendment. "From our standpoint, we are on the defensive. We didn't ask for the debate, for sure."

Conley, at the Christian Civic League, said he and other gay-marriage opponents in Maine have discussed the possibility of pursuing a constitutional ban here if they win this fall. That would require a supportive Legislature and governor, because citizens cannot bring state constitutional amendments forward by petition.

"I'm hopeful maybe we can win this again and hold the status quo and maybe go to the Maine people and say, 'It's time for a constitutional amendment,'" he said.

In Maryland and Washington state this year, voters will be asked to approve or reject same-sex marriage laws passed by lawmakers. It's the same type of vote that took place in Maine in 2009, when voters repealed the law passed by Democrats and signed by then-Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley, widely considered to be a possible presidential candidate in 2016, signed a same-sex marriage bill into law in March.

In Washington state, after dramatic floor debates in the House and Senate, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill in February. Immediately, opponents in both states began gathering signatures to take the issue to a popular vote.

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, a New York group working to bring same-sex marriage to every state in the country, said the "patchwork of progress" across the country will continue to play out in state-by-state battles.

"No civil rights movement wins in every state on the same day, and none of them happen overnight," he said.

Susan M. Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:



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