Maine has a proud history of tenacity in its pursuit of civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In November 2005, after several rounds of legislative action and ballot measures stretching over 12 years, Mainers voted to uphold their LGBT non-discrimination law by a margin of more than 10 percent.
A similar conversation about marriage equality among Maine’s voters has been underway since 2009 when Maine became the first state to pass a marriage equality law through the legislature and have it signed by the governor. That historic win was set aside temporarily when opponents put the freedom to marry for all Maine families on the 2009 ballot and succeeded by just 16,500 votes.
A lot has changed in voters’ hearts and minds since 2009, and for the better. A robust and ongoing field campaign has been successful in swaying the opinion of undecided voters and even past opponents, making possible this exciting announcement by Why Marriage Matters Maine, the coalition to bring marriage equality back to Maine:
Today, advocates for allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in Maine announced plans for a Citizens Initiative to enact a marriage equality law, delivering more than 105,000 signatures from Maine voters who want the issue on the November 2012 ballot to the Secretary of State’s office.
The announcement follows two years of outreach and conversations with Mainers about the freedom to marry, statewide polling showing steadily increasing support for allowing same-sex couples to marry – which now stands at 54 percent – and intensive field organizing in preparation for the campaign.
“The number of signatures we gathered and the thoughtful conversations we’ve been having with voters tell us that Mainers are eager to speak on this question again,” said Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine. “Our polling shows a 54% majority of support for same-sex marriage in Maine. Many Mainers have changed their minds and want a chance to bring equality and fairness to our state.”
The question with every survey is, are the numbers real and durable? In this case it would seem so. The recent survey of likely November 2012 Maine voters showing that 54% favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry in Maine is consistent with two other polls conducted in Maine earlier this year.
Another measure of support for marriage in Maine is the great success the campaign had in gathering signatures to put the pro-equality measure on the ballot. More than 105,000 signatures were gathered when only 57,000 are actually needed to qualify the measure for the ballot. Most of these signatures were gathered by volunteers, not paid signature gatherers.
Marriage-related ballot measures are anticipated in several states this year in addition to Maine. Voters in Maryland and Washington are likely to face referendum votes asking them to affirm newly-enacted marriage equality laws. In North Carolina and Minnesota, voters will be considering draconian anti-equality amendments to their state constitutions.
Civil marriage licenses are available to same-sex couples in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont and Washington, DC.