Today, marriage equality advocates in Maine delivered 105,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in support of placing a Citizens Initiative on the state’s 2012 election ballot that would allow same-sex couples to legally marry. Over the past two years, these advocates have been organizing campaign plans and reaching out to individuals around the state to have conversations about why marriage is important for all. In June 2011, Equality Maine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced plans to put marriage equality to a state-wide vote. A coalition of advocacy organizations has assembled to help pass the initiative, including Equality Maine, GLAD, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, the Maine Women’s Lobby, and Engage Maine. Several allies have also endorsed the campaign, including faith leaders, political officials, and laborer leaders. Meanwhile, polls in Maine have reflected growing support for marriage equality, with 54 percent of Mainers now in favor of legal marriage for same-sex couples.
In a press release, GLAD’s executive director Lee Swislow commented on the importance of marriage equality in Maine, saying, “Loving, committed couples in Maine want to marry for the same reason that their friends and neighbors do: to build and share a life with the person they love. All Maine families deserve the security and legal protections of marriage that help make this possible, and a majority of Maine voters now realize this.” Ben Dudley, executive director of Engage Maine, added to this, saying, “The enthusiasm that we encountered during the signature gathering tells us that most Mainers are ready to say ‘I do’ to supporting the freedom to marry for their gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers.”
In 2009, Maine became the first state to pass marriage equality through the legislature and have it signed by the governor. Vermont’s legislature beat Maine by a month, but their governor vetoed the bill. Lawmakers then overrode this veto. Anti-gay activists in Maine then issued a ‘People’s Veto,’ placed the issue on the ballot, and blocked the legislation from being enacted. This tragic series of events and the admirable work of marriage equality advocates to prevent them was captured in the moving documentary film, Question One. Since then, advocates have gained greater support for marriage equality from donors and individuals, in part through sharing personal stories of why this should be an important issue to all Maine voters.
GLAAD thanks Maine advocates for their exceptional work in helping to change hearts and minds, and applauds their efforts to ensure the freedom to marry for all.