Today, the Secretary of State in Maine approved the language for a proposed statute that would grant marriage equality in Maine. The statute, sponsored by EqualityMaine and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, will be placed on the ballot for the 2012 election if LGBT advocates can acquire signatures of support from 80,000 people in Maine before January 2012.
This weekend, volunteers will begin canvassing Maine to drum up support for marriage equality. The official wording of the ballot initiative has not been finalized, and won't be until all of the signatures have been collected and approved.
Equality Maine, however, has released the specifics of the would-be bill:
This initiated bill repeals the provision that limits marriage to one man and one woman and replaces it with the authorization for marriage between any two persons that meet the other requirements of Maine law. It also specifies that a marriage between two people of the same sex in another state that is valid in that state is valid and must be recognized in this State. It also provides that a member of the clergy is not required to perform and a church, religious denomination, or other religious institution is not required to host a marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of that member of the clergy, church, religious denomination, or other religious institution and that any such refusal cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or liability and does not affect the tax-exempt status of the church, religious denomination, or other religious institution.
The bill that would be up for a vote, should it qualify for the 2012 election, is called "An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom." It includes similar religious exemptions that New York's marriage equality act currently allows - that is, churches that do not support same-sex marriage would not be required to perform weddings for same-sex couples.
EqualityMaine and GLAD plan to continue their education efforts to answer Maine residents' questions about marriage equality, with particular regard for religious exemptions.
Maine's LGBT advocates lost a ballot initiative for marriage equality two years ago, when Question 1 - which blocked same-sex marriages from occurring in the state - was passed. With higher polling numbers and greater visibility for LGBT issues, especially with the passage of marriage equality in New York in June, Maine advocates are hopeful that next year will be different. A similar ballot initiative may occur in Oregon, and Colorado is actively gearing up for a pro-marriage campaign. Minnesota, Indiana, and North Carolina, meanwhile, may be facing ballot initiatives that would ban same-sex marriage.
Pastor Michael Grey, a pastor from a United Methodist Church, has been an active supporter of Maine's efforts to approve of marriage equality. He spoke out in the joint press release from EqualityMaine and GLAD about the Secretary of State's decision to approve the language:
I'm grateful to Secretary of State Summers for promptly approving the language of the
proposed law to let same-sex couples marry in Maine. As campaign volunteers fan out across the state to collect signatures from their fellow Mainers I expect they will encounter thousands of willing signers who have changed their hearts and minds on marriage after getting to know their gay and lesbian neighbors, co-workers and community members - just as I have done.
Sign a petition to support Maine's campaign for marriage equality on EqualityMaine's Facebook page here.