By Shenna Bellows (Maine Civil Liberties Union), Betsy Smith (EqualityMaine), Mary Bonauto (Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders)
Marriage just passed in Maine 89 to 57! The mood here in the state house is euphoric. The House vote today is the culmination of three years of planning and hard work. It's a testament to the power of a thoughtful and long-term strategy that has included strong grassroots organizing, aggressive coalition building and extensive communications and public education.
We had strong support in the legislature, including the House Speaker and the Senate President. All of the Senate Democrats but one voted in favor of our bill. Remarkably, one-third of the House signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. We had the support of key Republicans on both the Senate and the House side.
The bill now goes to the Governor for signature — and he needs to hear from supporters of marriage equality. You can e-mail him here.
Now, our neighbors in Vermont beat us to the punch in passing marriage through their legislature just a few weeks ago, but Maine is cursed or blessed with something Vermont doesn’t have — a citizen-initiated referendum process. Our opponents have 90 days from the date of adjournment of the legislature to gather just over 55,000 signatures in opposition to the marriage equality legislation. If they are successful, the issue goes to the ballot in November of 2009 or June of 2010, depending upon the speed of signature collection and processing by the Secretary of State.
We see it as an enormous opportunity. We believe Maine voters can and will support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. And that this vote in Maine will be significant in terms of the national movement for equality. Already, we’ve brought together a coalition of over 34 organizations and over 150 Maine clergy working alongside us toward the goal of full equality. At the public hearing on marriage, we outnumbered our opponents by 4 to 1. Already, we’ve identified 25 percent of the voters we need to win a referendum. Now is our chance to make history. And we need your help.
With your support, we can continue the momentum toward marriage equality by building up our team of organizers and getting our message out to the public. We are ready to make history, and we want you to be a part of it.