Wednesday’s federal court ruling overturning California’s ban on gay marriage was seen in Maine more as a morale booster than a legal victory.

“The California ruling, in terms of a direct legal impact, will have no impact in Maine,” said Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine. “That being said, it is a very encouraging ruling for all of us. It’s a validation of what we’ve known for a long time, that denying same-sex couples the right to marriage is unfair, unjust and unconstitutional.”

In May 2009, Maine became the first state to pass a same-sex marriage bill through both chambers of the legislature and have it signed into law by the governor. In November, 53 percent of Maine voters rejected the law, overturning it before it could take effect.

Bob Emrich, a Baptist pastor from Plymouth, helped lead the effort to repeal the law as co-chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine.

On Wednesday, he said, “We view (the California ruling) as a setback because it will only prolong the debate.

“I think the judge’s ruling will boost (EqualityMaine’s) morale,” he said, “but in no way is it a game changer.”

Advocates on both sides of the issue in Maine agreed that the conversation about same-sex marriage will not go away.

Smith said volunteers have been telling families, community groups and congregations across the state what it means to be in a same-sex marriage.

“We feel inspired and validated by the (California) ruling,” Smith said, “but we know now that in the end it’s about changing hearts and minds.”

Emrich, who organized a rally in Augusta last month against same-sex marriage, said, “We are never going to accept any other definition of marriage, because it’s not marriage. We’ll do everything we can to keep this law from being changed.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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