Marriage equality advocates in Maine have collected the 100,000 signatures necessary to bring the issue back to the ballot in November and announced their decision to do so Thursday, the Associated Press reports.
State lawmakers had passed a marriage bill signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci in June of 2009, but voters narrowly overturned the law a few months later.
EqualityMaine, Maine Civil Liberties Union and the Maine Women's Lobby will announce Thursday whether they plan to deliver the petitions and carry through with a referendum. National gay-rights leaders, for their part, anticipate that a gay marriage campaign will be launched.
"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. (Read the full article here.)
According to the Portland Press Herald, Maine's Secretary of State's office has 30 days to inspect the more than 105,000 names collected to confirm that at least 57,277 are valid signatures.
The move to reclaim marriage equality via a ballot initiative in Maine drew immediate criticism from the antigay National Organization for Marriage, which posted on its blog, "With gay marriage advocates filing a [same-sex marriage] initiative in Maine[,] will other gay marriage activists renounce their mantra that 'civil rights should never be voted on by the people?'"
Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and an executive committee member on the Maine ballot campaign, wrote Thursday that the political realities of the state made an initiative the only viable path to marriage rights.
"As a matter of principle, I believe strongly that it is wrong to vote on the fundamental rights of any minority group," Solomon wrote in an op-ed. "Yet in Maine, all realistic paths to enabling loving and committed same-sex couples to have the freedom to marry run through the ballot. Securing and protecting anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people took three referenda in Maine. So in this instance, I feel that this path is the smart one."
Ballot measure battles currently loom in North Carolina and Minnesota, where marriage equality opponents are seeking a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. NOM has pledged to push for a referendum in Washington State should lawmakers pass a marriage bill, while New Jersey governor Chris Christie said earlier this week that he would veto a marriage bill in the Garden State and supported taking the issue to the voters.