Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine
2012-FEB -AUG: "Question 1" approved.
Opinions. Wording of the question. Funds raised.
In this section, "SSM" refers to "same-sex marriage, and
"LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
This topic is a continuation from the previous essay
2012-FEB-23: Secretary of State certifies that a sufficient number of signatures have been collected:
WGME-TV newscasters reported:
"Victories tonight for supporters of same sex marriage in Maine. Earlier this evening Secretary of State Charlie Summers announced that organizers of a citizens initiative, to allow same sex couples marriage licenses in Maine, did get enough valid signatures to move the issue forward."1
Opponents have ten days to challenge the signatures. However, since more than 85,000 were collected and only 57,277 were required, a successful challenge became an impossible task. 2
Since "Question 1" is an indirect initiated state statute, the petition was sent to the Legislature. They have the option of treating the petition like a bill and vote to pass it. Since the legislature is Republican-controlled, and has already indicated that it will not approve the petition, this option is a non-starter. The default position is that the referendum will be added to the ballot on election day in 2012-NOV for the voters to accept or decline.
Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Joseph Malone of the diocese of Portland said of the same-sex marriage petition:
"It is unfortunate that citizens will be subjected to this divisive issue again especially considering other challenges before us. ... The church will remain firm in her constant teaching that marriage is exclusively the union of one woman and one man" 1,2
The Church has ever right to maintain this position and to refuse to marry loving, committed same-sex couples within their sanctuaries. However, most same-sex couples seeking marriage would probably prefer to be married by a liberal faith group that is supportive of marriage equality, or to be married in a civil setting. Such liberal faith groups feel that their religious freedom is being negatively impacted by the existing laws because they are unable to marry same-sex couples as they wish.
David Farmer, a spokesperson with Equality Maine said of the referendum:
"It's going to be challenging. ... We've been working hard since 2009. We've spoken to 40,000 people one-on-one to change their minds and we believe those efforts will pay off."2
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) -- the largest national group opposed to marriage for same-sex couples -- said:
"NOM intends to vigorously fight this attempt by same-sex marriage advocates to impose gay marriage in Maine. ... Maine voters rejected gay marriage barely more than two years ago. What part of 'no' don't gay marriage advocates understand?"
Marriage equality advocates are quite aware that a slim majority of voters opposed SSM in 2009. However, since then, there has been a phenomenal increase in developments involving equal rights for the LGBT community. This includes such topics as repeal of the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, the ongoing battle over Prop. 8 -- the citizen initiative that terminated same-sex marriage in California, President Obama's executive order to require most hospitals to acknowledge committed same-sex relationships, the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State, Washington State, and the pending legalization in Maryland, etc. This focus on equal rights for LGBT persons triggered discussion and careful consideration by many voters. This seems to have given marriage equality a sudden increase in support matched by a sudden decrease in opposition.
In addition, the people who will vote on election day in 2012-NOV are a different group than those who voted three years previously. Many residents of Maine have reached their 18th birthday and are now eligible to vote. Many older residents have withdrawn from the voting pool due to disability or death.
Number of same-sex couples in Maine:
The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) provides an analysis of same-sex couples in Maine derived from the 2010 U.S. census. They estimate that there were 3,958 same-sex couples living in Maine at the time of the census. 3
2012-MAR-13/14: The legislature weighs into the debate:
The citizen-initiated bill was sent to the Maine legislature. Under the constitution, they could treat Question 1 as a bill and pass it for the Governor to sign into law. Alternately, they could reject or change the initiative. This would automatically cause the initiative to be placed on the ballot.
Both the House and Senate killed the bill. Question 1 will thus be determined by the voters on election day, 2012-NOV-06. 4
2012-JUN-24: Opinions about the initiative:
Some commentators point to a possible shift in the vote on election day, 2012 compared to 2009. This is a presidential election year when a wider and more representative group of voters are expected to cast their votes. The previous referendum, which repealed a SSM marriage law passed by the Legislature, was held during 2009. This was an off year, when a larger percentage of older voters turned out. It lost in a close vote 53% to 47%. Since young voters are far more supportive of SSM than are older voters, SSM may be legalized once more in 2012 when the presidential elections are held.
Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD), support SSM. He said:
"This is the first time people are having the opportunity to vote yes for equality, as opposed to no. We would not have gone forward in Maine and submitted the signatures if we didn’t feel we had a good shot at winning."
Carroll Conley, Jr. who is the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine and is on the board of Protect Marriage Maine. Both groups oppose SSM. Referring to public opinion polls, he said:
"When [the question is] ... framed as 'Should people be able to marry regardless of sexual orientation?' you see a significant change from five years ago. But if you ask, 'Should marriage be defined as one man, one women?' we don’t see significant changes."
The Roman Catholic Church is expected to continue its opposition to same-sex marriage. However, they plan to be less obvious than in 2009 when they were criticized for taking too active a role. 5
Deciding the wording of the referendum question:
The question asked in 2009 was:
"Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?"
The Secretary of State initially proposed that the 2012 ballot wording be:
"Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?"
That seems to be a simple, unambiguous, unbiased question to ask. However, the main group promoting SSM -- Mainers United for Marriage -- want it changed. A major cause of the failure of the 2009 referendum was that social and religious conservative groups had spread misinformation about SSM. They stressed that if SSM were legalized, then religious freedom would be threatened. Clergy who refused to marry same-sex couples on theological grounds could be sued for discrimination. Needless to say, that is false. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees total freedom of religion. As proof of this, clergy had been refusing to marry inter-faith couples, inter-racial couples, couples that they felt were not sufficiently mature, etc. for centuries. The Catholic church has even refused to marry couples in which one was physically disabled so that the couple could not procreate. To our knowledge, no U.S. clergyperson has ever been sued for their refusal to marry a couple. However, many conservative voters apparently believed the misinformation and voted to repeal the law that legalized SSM. 6,7
For 2012, SSM advocates proposed the wording:
"Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?" 7
Secretary of State Charlie Summers (R) decided that the question is:
" “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" 8
Some commentators suggested that Summers was influenced by politics when setting the final wording. He is running for state senator for the Republican Party.
2012-JUL-25: Both sides on ballot initiative reveal donations received:
Political action committees (PAC) who favor the availability of SSM to loving, committed same-sex couples have raised almost $1.2 million. The most successful PAC was Mainers United for Marriage which has raised almost $1.1 million of that amount. Much of this money comes from out-of-state donors.
PACs that oppose SSM and urge that voters reject the initiative have raised less than $50,000. Of this, Protect Marriage Maine has raised just over $42,000. However the National Organization for Marriage who are the main organization opposing same-sex marriage is expected to donate substantial sums to the "anti" forces. In 2009, they contributed $2 million dollars and were successful in influencing voters so that the same-sex marriage law was rejected by a vote of 53% to 47%.
Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said:
"It's misleading to think we've outraised them 25 to 1. The fact is we to have continue to outraise them by that amount because sometime in the next month or two, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), just like they did in 2009, will write another big $2 million or $2½ million check. We just need to know that this out-of-state group is going to come in and dump whatever money they need to, to influence the election here. "
However NOM may have difficulty funding the 2012 referendum to the same degree as in 2009 because they are battling constitutional amendments and citizen initiatives to legalize SSM in four states: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington State. 9
This topic continues in the next essay
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Gay marriage petition," video. WGNE-13 news, 2012-FEB-23, at: http://www.wgme.com/
- Jason McLure, "Maine gets enough support for gay marriage referendum," Reuters, 2012-FEB-24, at: http://www.reuters.com
- Gary J. Gates & Abigail M. Cooke, "Maine Census Snapshot: 2010," The Williams Institute, at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/ This is a PDF file.
- "Maine Senate Sends Gay Marriage Question to Voters," Maine Public Broadcasting Network, 2012-MAR-14, at: http://www.mpbn.net/
- Katherine Q. Seelye, "Gay marriage again on ballot in Maine," New York Times, 2012-JUN-24, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- Gregg Lagerquist, "The Political EDGE blog, WGME-TV, Portland, ME, 2012-JUL-19, at: http://www.wgme.com/
- Susan Cover, "Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?' Morning Sentinel, 2012-JUN-15, at: http://www.onlinesentinel.com/
- Jacqueline Baylon, "Same sex marriage on the ballot in four states," TwinCities.com, 2012-NOV-05, at: http://www.twincities.com/
- Clarke Canfield, "Supporters of Maine gay marriage referendum raise 25 times more money than opponents," Associated Press, 2012-JUL-25, at: http://www.therepublic.com/
Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-JUL-04
Latest update: 2012-NOV-06
Author: B.A. Robinson