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Maine marriage initiative moves to signature gathering, next part of process to get on ballot

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Via press release from Dirigo Family PAC (Dirigo is the Maine state motto, which means "I lead"):

Today, same-sex marriage advocates in Maine announced that a citizen initiative campaign for a law allowing same-sex couples to marry cleared its first major hurdle with the Secretary of State’s approval of the language of the proposed statute. This allows campaign volunteers and supporters to begin collecting the signatures required to put “An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” on the November 2012 ballot.

“I’m grateful to Secretary of State Summers for promptly approving the language of the proposed law to let same-sex couples marry in Maine,” said Pastor Michael Gray of Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church, one of six original signers of the initiative petition. “As campaign volunteers fan out across the state to collect signatures from their fellow Mainers 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, co-workers and community members – just as I have done.”

The management of a ballot campaign required the creation of a political action committee, which in this case is called the Dirigo Family PAC. Its first job will be to oversee the grassroots signature gathering effort with the help of thousands of volunteers and dozens of Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition partners. Beginning this weekend, they will be knocking on doors, canvassing their neighborhoods and gathering signatures in the communities where they live. The PAC plans to gather at least 80, 000 signatures, which must be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office for certification in January of 2012. At the same time, EqualityMaine, GLAD and our Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition partners will continue the critical public education work to strengthen support for the freedom to marry in Maine. Learn more about their work at
So, the first hurdle has been reached, now it's on to the signature gathering.

As noted in the release, the Secretary of State will certify the signatures in January 2012. From there, this doesn't go directly to the November 2012 ballot. Instead, it goes to the Legislature. And, in Maine, for the first time in decades, both Houses are controlled by Republicans. The state also has a real nutjob teabagger for its Governor.

There's more. Maine Constitution (Article IV. - Part Third, Section 18 (2)) not only requires the initiative to be submitted to the Maine Legislature, it gives the legislature options. First, the Legislature could just pass the initiative. That won't happen. The Legislature can also offer a competing measure, on the same issue:
The measure thus proposed, unless enacted without change by the Legislature at the session at which it is presented, shall be submitted to the electors together with any amended form, substitute, or recommendation of the Legislature, and in such manner that the people can choose between the competing measures or reject both.
If the GOPers pass a "competing measure," there would be two initiatives on the ballot in November 2012. One would be marriage. One would be whatever the GOPers concocted with the intent of defeating marriage. It's not unusual for the Maine Legislature to offer its own ballot measure. In fact, it has happened often. So, before we even get to the ballot, there could be a fierce legislative battle at the beginning of next year just to make sure all this hard work isn't undermined by the GOPers who control the State House in Augusta. Who knows what they'd come up with to derail the marriage initiative. But, you have to know they're already plotting.

So, there's a long way to go until Mainers actually vote on marriage. I'm just really hoping there's a well thought out strategy to get there -- and to win.

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