Election officials in Maine have drafted the question which will appear on ballot papers if opponents gather enough signatures to call a referendum on the state’s recent decision to legalise gay marriage.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap yesterday confirmed that the question that will appear on petitions is as follows:

“Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?”

Same-sex marriage opponents in the state have filed a ‘people’s veto’ challenge to the new law.

To get the bill on the ballot in November, they have 90 days to collect 55,087 signatures opposing gay marriage. This means the bill will be put on hold until then. Depending on when petitions are submitted, a referendum may not be held until June 2010.

Governor John Baldacci signed the bill into law on Wednesday after previously voicing his opposition to gay marriage.

In a statement, he said: “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

An umbrella group called the Maine Marriage Coalition is leading the fight to have the bill repealed and is being supported by the National Organization for Marriage, which was instrumental in bringing about Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.