Politics

July 23, 2012

Supporters of same-sex vows claim momentum; not so much, say foes

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

BANGOR -- Gay-marriage supporters said Wednesday that more groups have joined their effort, a sign 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, campaign manager Matt McTighe said.

"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.

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 In 2009, Mainers repealed a gay-marriage law 53 percent to 47 percent.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 MaineToday Media poll that showed 57 percent of Mainers saying they support the ballot question, 35 percent opposed and 8 percent undecided.

Emrich said a Father's Day fundraising drive at churches across the state drew 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 news conference, which was attended by about 50 people, came two days after the public comment period ended for feedback on a proposed ballot question. Last month, Secretary of State Charlie Summers issued the proposed question -- "Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?" -- kicking off a public 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 information about an exemption that allows clergy to refuse to perform same-sex marriages 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 support the ballot question. However, he said, he does not think the question should include references to the clergy exemption, calling it misleading and redundant.

"I would be surprised if (Summers) changes it," he said.

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