AUGUSTA (AP) — Barely two years after Maine voters rejected legalizing gay marriage in a statewide referendum, election officials have given the go-ahead for another statewide vote on the matter.
Secretary of State Charles Summers confirmed Thursday that enough voters’ signatures have been verified to place a citizens initiative on the November ballot asking voters if they favor allowing same-sex couples to receive marriage licenses.
Summers said his office verified 85,216 of the signatures that backers of the proposal submitted last month, far surpassing the 57,277 required.
The new proposal first goes to the Republican-controlled Legislature for an up-or-down vote. If the Legislature approves the proposal and it’s signed into law by the governor, gay marriage will be legalized.
But it the Legislature doesn’t approve the bill or the governor doesn’t sign it, as expected, the question then goes to voters.
Same-sex couples want to marry because they love each other and want to spend their lives together, just like heterosexual couples do, said Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine.
“During the last two years, our coalition has had thousands of face-to-face conversations about marriage with Mainers who have changed their minds about this issue,” Smith said. “There’s no question that momentum is growing for same-sex marriage in Maine.”
Maine’s Catholic diocese, which opposes same-sex marriage, said it will continue promoting marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
“It is unfortunate that citizens will be subjected to this divisive issue again, especially considering other challenges before us such as homelessness, hunger and societal care for all vulnerable people,” Bishop Richard Malone said. “The church will remain firm in her constant teaching that marriage is exclusively the union of one woman and one man — a nearly universally accepted truth until very recently.”
Voters repealed Maine’s same-sex marriage law in 2009 after the Legislature voted it into law.