Trailing 2-to-1 in donations, opponents of 'gay marriage' in Maine issue plea

PORTLAND, Maine (BP)--With three weeks left before Election Day, an expected tight race in Maine could turn into a landmark victory for "gay marriage" backers Nov. 3 thanks to a more than 2-to-1 fundraising advantage revealed Tuesday.

Supporters of Question 1, which if passed would overturn the state's recently signed "gay marriage" law, sent out an e-mail pleading for contributions Tuesday after filings with the state government showed Protect Maine Equality -- which opposes Question 1 -- outraising Stand for Marriage Maine $2.7 to $1.1 million through the end of September. Stand for Marriage Maine is the group behind Question 1. The new law has yet to go into effect.

The campaign cash margin could make a significant difference in the race, which both sides believe could depend on voter turnout. A Sept. 18 poll of 600 likely voters by Research 2000 commissioned by the liberal blog DailyKos.com showed Question 1 leading, 48-46 percent. An Oct. 14 Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll of 410 adults showed it losing, 52-43 percent. The survey weeded out those not likely to vote. The good news for Question 1 supporters is that polls generally underestimate the support for "gay marriage" bans. Question 1 backers also say both polls used language biased against their position.

"We really need some financial help," Bob Emrich, a spokesperson for Stand for Marriage Maine (StandForMarriageMaine.com), told Baptist Press. "If we're going to keep pace with them in terms of getting our message out, we just have to have more money. If they outspend us two to one, three to one with the ads, then they control the message."

The outcome will have national implications. If Question 1 is defeated, it would be the first time voters in any state will have affirmed "gay marriage" at the ballot. By contrast, a victory for Question 1 supporters would run conservatives' state-by-state record to 31-0 nationwide on such initiatives and show that "gay marriage" -- even in left-leaning Maine -- is unpopular.

A written analysis by Pan Atlantic SMS Group pollsters said that the results of Question 1 and other initiatives "will very likely be determined by the strength" of the get-out-the-vote efforts from both sides, particularly since it's an off-year election.

Opponents of Question 1 are trying desperately to defeat the initiative after failing last year to defeat California Proposition 8, which they considered a shocking loss. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, a Question 1 opponent and a leading liberal blogger who founded DailyKos.com, wrote Sept. 30, "If we stop the bigoted Right in Maine, it'll create momentum toward California's effort to reinstate marriage equality in 2010, and eventually beyond."

The difference thus far between the Maine and California campaigns is campaign cash. For most of the Prop 8 campaign, conservatives were able to match liberals dollar-for-dollar.

"This is a huge national issue coming after defeat of gay marriage in California, and Maine is where the defenders of gay marriage are making their stand," Christian Potholm, a government professor at Bowdoin College in Maine, told the Associated Press.

Emrich said he wasn't surprised by the financial gap but found it to be a "little unnerving." Stand for Marriage Maine, he said, already had cut back on its planned television advertising even before the latest news.

"We're just barely maintaining," he said. "We're doing the minimum as far as the ads are concerned. With them having that much money, that means that we can expect an all-out assault in the last couple weeks of the campaign. Quite frankly, we're not prepared for that. We just don't have the funds to match that."

Stand for Marriage Maine's ads have had the other side on the defensive. One particular ad spotlights a Massachusetts couple whose son's second-grade class was read a book, "King & King," about a prince who "marries" another prince. The couple objected and requested notification of similar books in the future, but the school refused. The couple then sued in federal court but lost. The end of the ad shows a teacher, Charla Bansley of Ellsworth, who says, "It's already happened in Massachusetts. Vote yes on Question 1 to prevent homosexual marriage from being taught in Maine schools." All of Stand for Marriage Maine's TV ads, in fact, reference public schools.

Protect Maine Equality countered the public schools charge with its own ad, which showed pictures of different families. A narrator says, "Outsiders are trying to harm our kids and schools by deceiving families about what's taught in Maine classrooms. It won't work. Because in Maine, all families put children first." The ad drew a retort from Stand for Marriage Maine chair Marc Mutty.

"We are trying to prevent 5-, 6- and 7-year-old children from being taught about homosexual marriage in school against the wishes of their parents and we are accused of 'harming children'? If it weren't so serious, this would be like describing an 'Alice in Wonderland' situation," he wrote in an e-mail to supporters.

The Oct. 14 Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll suggested that the ads have had success. Among those who believe that "gay marriage" will be taught in public schools, 75.6 percent support Question 1. Officials with Question 1 say that when people see their ads, minds change.

Mutty sent out the e-mail asking for financial contributions, saying the campaign is in "desperate need" of cash and that "we cannot win if we continue to be outspent as we have to this point." Protect Maine Equality's ads, he said, are running upwards of 50 percent more than are Stand for Marriage Maine's. Likewise, National Organization for Marriage Executive Director Brian Brown told supporters in an Oct. 14 e-mail, "Unless we act now, marriage will be redefined in Maine. ... If we lose marriage in Maine, we risk losing marriage everywhere."

"We never dreamed the situation was as dire as it is," Mutty wrote.

Polling, he said, shows the race "dead-even" and Question 1 "in a good position to win" if the campaign can finish strong.

Joey Marshall, a local Southern Baptist pastor, previously told Baptist Press the pro-Question 1 side must not forget the importance of prayer.

"This is a God-sized task and we can only win this one on our knees," Marshall, pastor of Living Stone Community Church in Standish, Maine, said. "... We must pray that God will reveal truth to those who are deceived. I pray that God finds righteous men and women in the state of Maine fervently praying and standing for the truth in God's Word."

Including Maine, six states have legalized "gay marriage" either through court or legislative action.


Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information on how you can help pass Maine Question 1, visit http://www.standformarriagemaine.com.