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Group Abandons Push to Repeal Maine Gay Rights Law

Conservative
Group Abandons Push to Repeal Maine Gay Rights Law

An evangelical group has abandoned its campaign to overturn Maine's law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, days after California began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

An evangelical group has abandoned its campaign to overturn Maine's law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination, days after California began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"We're pulling the plug," Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Thursday. The group failed to attract the voter, volunteer, and financial support it needed to continue its campaign to put a repeal measure to a vote, he said.

The group collected only a third of the 15,000 voter signatures it had set as a goal for primary election day June 10, Heath said. Citing tags opponents had applied to initiative backers, he said potential volunteers "don't want to be aligned with bigotry and homophobia and hatred."

EqualityMaine, which had placed volunteers at the polls June 10 to discourage voters from signing the initiative ballots, welcomed the decision.

"This was a really broad attack on gays and lesbians and their families," said Betsy Smith, EqualityMaine's executive director. "Mainers are generally fair-minded, and I think they sent a strong message on primary day."

The evangelical group would have needed at least 55,087 valid voter signatures by January to send their proposal to the legislature next year. Lawmakers would probably have rejected it, and under Maine law the question would have gone to voters no sooner than November 2009.

The proposal would have repealed Maine's law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, credit, and education. It also would have reaffirmed Maine's law restricting marriages to one man and one woman; ensured that only one unmarried person or one married couple jointly could adopt a person; prohibited clerks from issuing marriage licenses to persons of the same sex; and prohibited municipalities from licensing civil unions.

California and Massachusetts are the only two states to have legalized gay marriage. A handful of states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. (AP)

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