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Maine Gets OK to Start Collecting Signatures

Maine Gets OK to Start Collecting Signatures


Exact language for a marriage equality ballot initiative in Maine come 2012 was approved today, promising a showdown with antigay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, which is already funneling money into the state.

The text would legalize same-sex marriage while including religious exemptions, like the ones approved in New York by state lawmakers, according to the Bangor Daily News. Now supporters can get to work on gathering the 57,000 signatures needed to put the question on the ballot.

Maine legislators approved same-sex marriage in 2009, but the law was repealed by voters that same year, with 53% of voting against marriage equality. Organizers of a second vote are hoping public sentiment has changed in the ensuing years.

"We believe there's strong support for marriage in Maine," said Matt McTighe, director of public education for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, during a a news conference announcing their plans in late June. EqualityMaine is also in the fight.

NOM has already donated $32,000 to a political action committee that is getting ready to defend the marriage ban, reports the American Independent, based on campaign disclosure documents filed last month.

Gay rights activists in Oregon are still considering whether to put marriage equality up for a vote in their state, which had voted for a ban in 2004. If either Oregon or Maine is successful, it would become the first time voters of any state had approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box.

Methodist minister Michael Gray was one of the original signers of the pro-marriage equality petition, and he's hopeful the milestone will come.

"As campaign volunteers fan out across the state to collect signatures from their fellow Mainers," he told the Bangor Daily News, "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, coworkers, and community members -- just as I have done."

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