AUGUSTA, Maine (BP)--Supporters of an effort to overturn Maine's "gay marriage" law launched their first television ad Tuesday and in it warned that if the law isn't reversed, church organizations could lose their tax-exempt status and "gay marriage" could be taught in public schools.
The ads from both sides of the campaign are being monitored closely and could very well determine who wins in November. Last year in California, TV ads -- particularly ones that highlighted the issue of public schools -- were credited with helping the pro-Prop 8 side erase a 17-point polling deficit in only six weeks and win 52-48 percent on Election Day. There has been no recent public polling in Maine.
The first advertisement by Stand for Marriage Maine began airing 12 days after Protect Maine Equality -- the group trying to keep "gay marriage" legal" -- started airing its first ads.
"Until this point, our opponents have presented a rose-colored glasses view of homosexual marriage," Stand for Marriage Maine campaign director Marc Mutty said in a statement. "Starting today, Mainers across the state will hear about the real cost to society should traditional marriage be replaced by genderless contracts whose sole focus is the adults involved in the relationship."
The ad asks Mainers to support Question 1, a citizen-enacted ballot initiative that if passed would overturn a law signed in May by the Democratic governor legalizing "gay marriage." The initiative is known as a "people's veto." Boston College law school professor Scott T. Fitzgibbon is featured prominently in the ad, warning about what could happen if "gay marriage" remains legal.
"Unless Question 1 passes, there will be real consequences for Mainers," Fitzgibbon says. "Legal experts predict a flood of lawsuits against individuals, small businesses and religious groups. Church organizations could lose their tax exemption. Homosexual marriage taught in public schools, whether parents like it or not."
The ad references a May 1 letter that law professors from four universities sent to Gov. John Baldacci, warning him that signing the bill without adding "robust" religious freedom protections "will lead to damaging, widespread, and unnecessary conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty." Such language was not added to the bill. The letter cites a New Jersey case in which the state removed the tax-exempt status from a United Methodist oceanfront retreat center pavilion because retreat center officials refused to rent it to a lesbian couple.
The ad also references:
-- a New Mexico case in which the state's human rights commission fined a husband-wife-owned photography business $6,600 for refusing to take pictures of a lesbian commitment ceremony.
-- a Massachusetts case in which a couple's son and his second-grade class were read a book ("King & King") about a prince "marrying" another prince. The parents protested, but the school refused to give them advance notice in the future when such books were read, and the couple sued but lost in federal court (Parker v. Hurley).
The new ad already is being used to raise funds for both campaigns. Mutty wrote in an e-mail to supporters that Stand for Marriage Maine has the funds to keep the ad on the air for two weeks but not beyond. "We must raise $200,000 this week to keep our ads on the air -- or risk going dark during a critical point in the campaign," he wrote.
Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Protect Maine Equality, also sent an e-mail to supporters saying the new ad is "full of the same sort of distortion and fear-mongering that was so successful in passing California's Prop 8." He then says that his campaign is only $21,000 short of its next fundraising goal and asks, "Can you chip in today to help us stay on the air?" Protect Maine Equality launched two TV ads Sept. 3. In one TV ad, a young teenage boy is seen with his two lesbian parents, urging citizens to vote against the measure. In another ad, a father tells the story of his two daughters, one who is straight and the other lesbian.
Outside groups are getting in the mix, too. Ron Prentice, executive director of California's ProtectMarriage.com, the group that backed Prop 8, sent out an e-mail Tuesday urging supporters of Prop 8 to donate money to help pass Question 1.
"The stakes are high, because a victory in Maine by gay marriage activists will be trumpeted as a sign that the mood of the country has changed," Prentice wrote. "Despite losing all 30 prior campaigns around the nation, same-sex advocates have been able to convince the media that it is 'inevitable' that homosexual marriage will soon be the law of the land. A victory in Maine would give them the 'proof' they have been seeking and will encourage the media and our opponents to write marriage off as a relic of history."
Although funding certainly is critical, Joey Marshall, a local Southern Baptist pastor, says the pro-Question 1 side must not forget the importance of prayer. It's vital to "inform the people in the state of Maine of the dangers of same-sex marriage," he said, but it's more important to pray.
"We are not going to win this battle with big rallies and public persuasion," Marshall, pastor of Living Stone Community Church in Standish, Maine, told Baptist Press. "This is a God-sized task and we can only win this one on our knees.... 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."
If Question 1 fails it would be the first time that any state's citizens have affirmed "gay marriage" at the ballot.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information about how to help pass Question 1, visit www.StandForMarriageMaine.com. To read how "gay marriage" impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here.