New: “Maine Freedom To Marry” Unified Campaign Launched

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Contact:  Jesse Connolly, 207.749.5933    


Unified Campaign Launches “Maine Freedom to Marry” Organization Will Defeat Anti-Marriage Referendum in November, Supporters Vow

PORTLAND — Supporters of the law that allows same-sex couples in Maine to marry announced today that they have formed a political action committee to protect marriage for all Mainers.  The new organization, “Maine Freedom to Marry,” will draw on resources that were crucial to the legislative victory this spring, and will also free up the campaign to raise and spend money for the statewide referendum expected this fall.

Betsy Smith, Executive Director of EqualityMaine, said,

“Today this campaign takes a bold and important step.  We have come this far because thousands of Mainers have raised their voices in support of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.  We have spoken from our hearts, telling the stories of our daily lives.  We are proud of our state, and we are energized. The campaign that we endorse today will harness that energy, empowering Mainers throughout the state to continue to work to preserve the law and protect marriage for all Maine families.”

Numerous resources that have been vital to the marriage effort to date will now be coordinated under the auspices of Maine Freedom to Marry. These resources include the field organization and volunteer base developed by EqualityMaine, the legal expertise of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the legal and public outreach capacity of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.  Additionally, Maine Freedom to Marry will now take the lead in local and national fundraising to protect marriage equality at the ballot box in November.

The committee has hired Jesse Connolly to manage the referendum campaign.  Connolly is a lifelong Mainer who now lives in South Portland.  A respected professional in Maine politics, Connolly served as campaign manager for “Maine Won’t Discriminate” in 2005.  In that successful campaign, the people of Maine voted by a wide margin to keep sexual orientation in the state’s non-discrimination policy. He also managed Governor Baldacci’s re-election campaign in 2006.  Most recently, Connolly has served as chief of staff to Rep. Hannah Pingree, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.  Connolly is taking an unpaid leave of absence from the Speaker’s office in order to run this campaign.

Connolly said,

“We enter this fight from a place of tremendous strength, with a lot of momentum.  Having been on the inside of the legislative process, I can tell you that the campaign to win marriage has thus far been well organized, heartfelt, and extremely professional.  We are assembling a first rate staff that includes professionals with deep expertise to keep this groundbreaking effort moving forward.  I am proud to pick up this mantle and continue to work with Mainers across the state who have brought us to this historic moment.”

Maine Freedom to Marry will be led by an executive committee that includes some of the best political minds in the state, including representatives from the many organizations that worked closely together on the legislative effort.

Mary Bonauto, long time attorney at the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), now a member of the Executive Committee, brings her marriage expertise from GLAD’s successful litigation and public education campaigns in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.  Bonauto and GLAD staff organized much of the testimony for the public hearing on the marriage bill, viewed by many as the turning point in the legislative campaign.  She said,

“When people speak from their hearts about why they want to join in marriage, and what it means to be denied protections for their committed relationships, it makes all the difference.  We’re going to do the same thing in this campaign with the people of Maine.”

Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, who co-led the lobbying efforts for the legislative campaign and continues as on the newly-formed Executive Committee, said,

“When people commit their energies and talents to a common goal, there’s no limit to what we can achieve together.  Our success in the legislature is a testament to the Maine values of fairness and respect.  Led by a dynamite political team, Maine Freedom to Marry is ready to continue the conversation about marriage equality Mainer-to-Mainer, neighbor-to-neighbor, one voter at a time.


Pat Peard, also serving on the Executive Committee, has been a crucial leader in the LGBT movement in Maine for 15 years.  She said,

“The LGBT community and our families and friends have been building up to this moment for a very long time.   We now stand at a truly historic moment, in which Maine will lead the nation in affirming dignity and respect for lesbian and gay families.  I am incredibly proud and energized to be part of this important campaign.”

The Executive Committee of Maine Freedom To Marry includes:

Shenna Bellows, Maine Civil Liberties Union

Mary Bonauto, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders

Peter Chandler, longtime Democratic strategist

Ben Dudley, Engage Maine

Monique Hoeflinger, EqualityMaine

Jim Mitchell

Pat Peard, attorney

Betsy Smith, EqualityMaine

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