AUGUSTA, Maine (BP)--Opponents of Maine's new "gay marriage" law turned in an eye-opening 100,000 signatures to the secretary of state Friday in their attempt to overturn the law, a total that is nearly double the amount required and one that may signal trouble for the law in the left-leaning state.
Needing only 55,000 valid signatures, the pro-family coalition known as Stand for Marriage Maine unloaded the petitions off a truck at a morning press conference. If enough signatures are validated -- which seems near-certain -- then Maine citizens in November will decide whether to reject or keep the new law. A "yes" vote will reject the law.
The effort is a result of Maine's unique "People's Veto" law, which allows citizens to gather signatures in an attempt to overturn laws passed by the legislature. The "gay marriage" law has not gone into effect and won't do so until citizens have a say, assuming it qualifies.
But Maine may not be the sole focus of pro-family groups this fall. In Washington state, a coalition known as Protect Marriage Washington turned in 138,000 signatures July 25 in hopes of overturning that state's recently passed domestic partnerships law, which provides same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. The group needed 120,000 signatures and won't know for days or several weeks if they were successful. The law has not taken effect.
If one or both efforts qualify for the ballot, it will be a good gauge of the status of the "gay rights" movement in two mostly liberal states. A victory in either state -- particularly in Maine -- would be a huge boon for social conservatives. Including the landmark vote in California last fall, "gay marriage" has lost in every state in which it has gone to the ballot. The signatures were submitted in Maine one day after the pro-"gay marriage" group Maine Freedom to Marry said 60,000 people had signed an online pledge declaring their support of the new law.
Yet the number of signatures collected in Maine impressed even veteran observers. Michael Heath, executive director of the conservative Maine Family Policy Council, said the total was more than he expected.
"We've done two People's Vetoes in the past in which we gathered close to 70,000 signatures and it took us three months," he told Baptist Press. " ... This was done in a month. I think it's fair to characterize it as an indication that the people of Maine don't want same-sex marriage."
The involvement of churches of all stripes was crucial and will be so again this fall during a statewide debate on the issue.
Joey Marshall, pastor of Living Stone Community Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Standish, Maine, said that Catholics, Protestants and conservative citizens have come together on the issue. "God has truly blessed" the effort, he said.
"There has been such an outpouring of support for the People's Veto because this marriage law not only affects those claiming to gain equality," Marshall told Baptist Press, "but it also changes society forever by degrading the traditional family values that Mainers have been trying to instill in their children for years. People are crying out because government should not legislate something that the people do not support."
The signature drive, Marshall said, "proves that this grassroots effort to protect marriage will stand and fight to the very end."
"In the end, if over 50 percent of the people want to protect marriage, praise God," he said. "However, if over 50 percent choose to support the gay marriage law, then at least the people of Maine had a voice in the decision making process."
Opponents of the new law warn it will weaken religious freedoms and parental rights and lead to the requirement of "gay marriage" being taught in school as morally acceptable, as has happened in Massachusetts, where it is legal.
A Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll of 400 Maine adults in April found that given three options, 39 percent supported "gay marriage," 34.5 percent same-sex civil unions and 23 percent opposed all legal recognition for homosexual couples.
"30 out of 30 times the people have had the chance to vote, they've spoken: Marriage is the union of a husband and wife," Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, wrote in an e-mail to constituents. "... What Maine will prove to the doubting Thomases and the politicians standing on the sideline is that there is no majority for gay marriage anywhere in these United States."
To read how "gay marriage" impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here.
For information on the Maine effort, visit www.standformarriagemaine.com. For information on the Washington effort, visit www.protectmarriagewa.com. Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.