PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Two longtime opponents of gay rights and same-sex marriage initiatives are forming a political action committee to oppose Maine's same-sex marriage referendum.
Michael Heath and Paul Madore said Tuesday they've formed the No Special Rights PAC to oppose November's ballot measure asking voters if same-sex marriage should be legalized.
Heath and Madore have held leadership roles going back to the early 1990s opposing gay rights and gay marriage initiatives in Maine. Heath was executive director of the Christian Civic League for 15 years until his resignation in 2009, and Madore once headed a group called Maine Grassroots Coalition that opposed sexual orientation laws.
Madore said he's ready to "take off the gloves" in the campaign leading up to November's election.
"It's going to be a fight," he said.
Heath and Madore's entry into the campaign isn't surprising given their active roles opposing past gay rights initiatives, said David Farmer, spokesman for the Dirigo Family PAC in support of the referendum.
Although Heath and Madore have been known to use sharp rhetoric in the past, Farmer said gay marriage supporters want to keep the debate "reasonable" this time around.
"Our goal throughout the campaign is to be respectful of people with differing views and to make our argument that same-sex couples should be able to enter into the same type of committed and responsible relationship as other couples."
The Legislature three years ago approved a law legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine, but opponents forced the question to voters, who then overturned the law 53 to 47 percent.
Gay marriage supporters this year turned in enough signatures from registered voters to again force the matter to a vote. If Mainers approve gay marriage this time around, the state would be the first to do so by a popular vote.
As the name implies, the goal of the No Special Rights PAC is to convince voters that allowing members of the same sex to get married amounts to "special rights," Heath said.
"There's no basis in nature for a right to sodomy or a right to call two men or two women who are choosing to relate to one another sexually as a marriage," he said. "There's no intrinsic or natural right to that. So we believe that these are special rights."
Heath and Madore's PAC has yet to raise any money, and the amount of funds raised will determine what it does during the campaign, Heath said.
But it's too early to speculate what kind of impact the PAC might have, Farmer said.
"At this point, we're not aware of their strategy or the tactics they'll use, or whether Mr. Heath will be a successful fundraiser or a spokesman," Farmer said. "We just don't know how he'll fit in with the opposition."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.