AUGUSTA — Steady rain fell as voices rose Thursday during a rally encouraging Christians to gather signatures for a people’s veto to overturn the gay rights bill just signed into law.

The law takes effect on June 29 and makes it illegal to fire a person or deny housing, job or education opportunities because a person is gay. Opponents say the law must be overturned or it will pave the way for the courts to rule in favor of same-sex marriage in Maine.

The scene in front of the State House on Thursday was a sea of umbrellas and people wearing “Marriage: One Man One Woman” white shirts. Speeches laced with Scripture, and songs like “God Bless America” and “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” continued for an hour.

Capitol Security estimated the crowd at between 500 to 600. Some came in buses after being shuttled from the Kennebec Ice Arena.

Meanwhile, on the third-floor balcony overlooking the scene, stood those who support the gay rights law. In silent opposition, they stood and held signs: “Read the Bill,” “Maine Believes in Fairness, Not Injustice,” and “It’s about Fairness.”

Their signs clashed with others on the ground that read: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes what? in a baby carriage.”

Three groups working to pass a people’s veto in November are Michael Heath’s Christian Civic League, Paul Madore’s Maine Grassroots Coalition, and Sandy William’s Coalition for Marriage. They brought in some national heavyweights to talk about their opposition to the gay rights agenda and the importance of passing the people’s veto, including Bob Knight of Concerned Women for America and Rev. Lou Sheldon of Traditional Values Coalition.

Keynote speaker H.B. London of Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colo., praised those who turned out, saying politicians “aren’t hearing what we’re saying,” but citizens can change the way Maine is going.

“Make sure you get these 70,000 signatures,” London lectured. Similar campaigns in other states have been successful after Christians mobilized and got their word out. There is no need for a gay rights law, he said. “There is no evidence that homosexuals are discriminated against in the present society.” Gays have political influence, “they have clout, privileges, they have everything they need.” Their agenda is to redefine the family, permit homosexual marriages, and recruit the young “and it must be vigorously opposed,” he said to cheers.

London ended his speech by starting a crowd chant: “We will win. We will win.”

Heath said Maine is in an hour of deep crisis from the threat the homosexual rights movement poses. The governor and Legislature “have cynically misused our Democratic institutions by passing a homosexual rights law after it was rejected twice by the people!”

The crowd booed.

What matters now, Heath said, is passing the people’s veto to overturn the gay rights law. If the gay rights law stands, “this hidden agenda will transform society beyond recognition,” Heath warned. Marriage will no longer be defined as between one man and one woman. “Marriage will have been destroyed, the family as we know it will disappear.” In this new order, Heath predicted that fundamental Christians “will have no place.”

Homosexuals will gain more access to public schools “and many of our young people will become homosexuals because of their efforts.” There’ll be lawsuits based on false claims as special rights are granted.

About then Heath’s microphone went dead.

Someone in the crowd began chanting: “We will win. We will win.”

Paul Madore of Lewiston, who heads the Maine Grassroots Coalition, ended the rally by giving a speech to ignite the people’s veto soldiers, calling what lies ahead “an awesome battle.”

In the crowd were people of all ages, including Kaylee Dean, 15, of Brewer, and Danielle Scovil, 16, of Carmel. Dean said she came “to support God’s institution for marriage.” She planned to help pass the people’s veto because she is opposed to same-sex marriage. “I don’t think it’s about discrimination at all. It’s not that we hate the gays.”

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