EqualityMaine plans for the next elections
EqualityMaine, the state’s largest advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights, is already planning for next year’s presidential election. Though they were unsuccessful in legalizing gay marriage in 2009, they are hopeful for 2012, 2016 or 2020.
The group aims to put the gay marriage question on the ballot during a presidential election year because according to Betsy Smith, the executive director of EqualityMaine, those are the times when progressives, young people and others who generally support the gay rights movement are most likely to vote.
In a recent survey, EqualityMaine asked a number of gay marriage questions, targeted at determining their support for the November 2012 election. Overall, the group determined that there is approximately 53 percent support for gay marriage in Maine.
Another survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, however, had support for gay marriage at approximately 47 percent – a close, but decisive number in determining its legalization.
“If we ran a campaign now, would we win 53 percent support?” Smith said in a press release. “I doubt it.”
In preparation for whichever election year they ultimately put the question on the ballot, EqualityMaine is increasing its efforts at education and public awareness.
“Vow to tell our stories,” Timothy Rose, communications director for EqualityMaine, said in a press release. “Call your senators. Break your silence.”
Through more door-to-door visits throughout the state, they hope to gain new support from previously undecided voters.
“More Maine voters need to move [on the issue] before we go back into a referendum campaign,” Smith said.
In order to even make it to the ballot, the group needs to gather at least 57,277 signatures this year in order to qualify as a citizen initiative.
The gay marriage debate is not new to Maine. In fact, former Governor John Baldacci (D-Maine) legalized the institution for a short period of time starting in May 2009.
“In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” he said in a press release. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil law.”
However, the new legislation was overturned later that year through a people’s veto initiative led primarily by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. The legalization of gay marriage was overturned by a close vote of 53 to 47 percent.
The campaign manager of the efforts to overturn gay marriage has acknowledged that some of their advertising against gay marriage may have been exaggerated.
“We use[d] a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,” Marc Mutty, the public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine, said on a recently released documentary Question 1.
Since the 2010 election, Maine’s government has been under new leadership with a primarily Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor.
“I believe that marriage consists of a man and a woman and I would veto a gay marriage law if it came to my desk as governor,” Paul LePage (R-Maine) said in a press release.
Members of EqualityMaine wonder whether the political climate will support their goals for 2012. If they do receive enough signatures on their petition, then they could theoretically bypass the Legislature and bring the question directly to Maine voters.