AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gay marriage opponents hoping to derail Maine's new law before it can take effect submitted petitions Friday that they said contain more than enough signatures to force a people's veto referendum.
Leaders of the Stand for Marriage campaign delivered a stack of cartons holding petitions with more than 100,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office, which has until Sept. 4 to certify at least 55,087 of them. If it does so, voters will be asked on Nov. 3 whether to repeal the law.
Maine became poised to recognize same-sex marriages in May, when lawmakers set aside a state law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The other New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont recognize gay marriages, as does Iowa.
The Maine Legislature's action needs to be reversed because traditional marriage between one man and one woman is a basic building block of society that must be protected, Stand for Marriage campaign leaders said at a news conference Friday.
"I am greatly concerned about the Legislature's redefining what has been the very foundation of our civil society," said Brian Souchet of Brunswick, standing next to his wife and children.
Campaign leader Rep. Bob Emrich, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Plymouth, also criticized lawmakers for "mocking and disparaging the deeply held faith of Maine people" before they voted to recognize same sex marriages this spring.
Gay marriage supporters said they weren't surprised by Friday's filing and stressed their own efforts to marshal support for their cause.
The No on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign also continued to criticize the other side for hiring an out-of-state company to assist in the petition drive. Stand for Marriage spokesman Scott Fish responded that both campaigns have received help from organizations not based in Maine.
"We know this is going to be a really hard-fought election. There are passionate supporters on both sides of this issue. But we feel very confident that our campaign (has) over 60,000 supporters so far," said Jesse Connolly of the No on 1 campaign. "I think our advocates knew when they went into this ... that they'd have to win both in the Legislature and also at the ballot box."
Maine has a domestic partnership registry, but gay marriage advocates say it doesn't go far enough to ensure marriage equality.