AUGUSTA, Maine (BP)--Approximately 3,000 Maine voters gathered in the Augusta Civic Center Sunday evening for a rally to support passage of Question 1, a ballot initiative that would reverse the state's recently signed "gay marriage" law.
The campaign to pass Question 1, also known as the People's Veto, is just now gathering steam, as both sides seek not only donations but also volunteers. They're also seeking campaign advice, and much of that is coming from California, because that state went through a nearly identical campaign less than 12 months ago.
Opponents of California Proposition 8 are letting opponents of Maine Question 1 know what did and did not work, and supporters of Prop 8 are doing the same with their likeminded friends in Maine.
Chris Clark, pastor of East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church in San Diego, was one of six speakers on the schedule for Sunday evening, but the only one from California. He was a leading voice in his state last year for Prop 8, which reversed a state Supreme Court ruling that had legalized "gay marriage." The Augusta rally was closed to the media but Clark spoke to Baptist Press afterward. He said the crowd was "enthusiastic."
"I had said [last year] that if God would bring the victory in California, I would give Him all the credit anywhere I get to speak about what happened in California," Clark said. "I told them God won the battle in California, and the same God that won the battle in California can and will win the battle in Maine."
Other speakers at the rally included Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council Action, Bishop Richard Malone of the Portland Roman Catholic Diocese, Bob Emrich of the Maine Jeremiah Project and Harry Jackson, Jr. of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md. It was sponsored by Stand for Marriage Maine, the primary organization backing Question 1.
Although on the surface California and Maine may not seem to have much in common -- California's population is 36.7 million, Maine's 1.3 million -- the two sides do share some characteristics, beginning with the fact that both typically are viewed as leaning left. Conservatives, though, say that -- just like California -- Maine will vote to uphold natural, traditional marriage.
"When you get down to the core beliefs of the people of Maine, they are morally pretty conservative," Clark said. "Where they needed 50,000 signatures [to qualify Question 1] they went and got 100,000 and it was all grassroots. They didn't have to [use any paid canvassers]."
Clark isn't the only person from California helping either Maine campaign. Schubert Flint Public Affairs, the California-based public affairs firm that developed the advertising campaign for Prop 8, has been hired to do the same with Question 1.
California's leading "gay marriage" groups are urging their constituents to donate to and possibly also volunteer for Protect Maine Equality, the group trying to defeat Question 1.
"A victory in Maine is essential for victory in California," Geoff Kors, the executive director of Equality California, wrote in an e-mail to supporters. The e-mail was pledging a donation of $25,000 to Protect Maine Equality and asking constituents to match it. "We are all connected so we need to continue the national momentum toward marriage equality."
Likewise, Jesse Connolly, the campaign manager for Protect Maine Equality, noted in a Sept. 3 Huffington Post column that campaign donations in Maine will buy more air time than they did in California, simply because it costs less to buy commercials in the New England state. Compared to the combined $80-plus million that the two sides spent on Prop 8, the combined total raised in Maine is expected to be far less, perhaps $5-10 million.
"I like to say we're a "cheap date state," Connolly wrote. "There's an old saying, 'As Maine goes, so goes the nation.'"
If Question 1 is defeated, Maine would become the first state to affirm "gay marriage" at the ballot. Citizens in 30 states have voted on the issue and in all 30 instances citizens voted to uphold the traditional definition.
Clark, the California pastor, said money is critical in the effort to pass Question 1.
"They don't have enough money to cover [TV ads] the next seven weeks," Clark said. "Their biggest need is funds. And they need volunteers to go out and get out the vote. That was one of the things that carried us in California -- we had 100,000 people on the ground on Election Day getting out the vote."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information on how to help pass Question 1, visit www.standformarriagemaine.com. To read how "gay marriage" impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here.