Maine: Equal marriage advocates seek to amend ballot question
Supporters of marriage equality rights for gay couples in Maine have said they will ask for the ballot question on marriage to be put to voters later this year to be amended before it is finalised.
A popular vote will take place in November to determine whether gay couples in Maine will be allowed to wed, and proponents want to ensure the question says religious freedoms are not in danger.
Secretary of State Charlie Summers had proposed the question: “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Advocates of equal marriage, however, would like the question to highlight that religious institutions will not be forced to carry out gay ceremonies.
The bill says in part: “The refusal to perform or host a marriage under this subsection cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or liability and does not affect the tax-exempt status of the church, religious denomination or other religious institution.”
Maine’s legislature passed equal marriage laws in 2009 but in a state-wide ballot with echoes of Proposition 8, the majority of voters reversed the legislature’s decision before the laws came into effect..
Nearly 53% of Maine citizens voted against allowing gays to marry in 2009, but campaigners believe the measure has more chance of success now.
Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, told the Morning Sentinel the question currently “fails to address important parts of the initiative that more than 105,000 Mainers signed” in securing the ballot, such as the freedom of religions to opt out of holding gay ceremonies.
A thirty-day consultation period follows the announcement of the draft question, at the end of which Mr Summers will make a decision on the wording.
The Sentinel reported a proposed draft by equality advocates as: “Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?”
Equal marriage opponents the Christian Civic League of Maine want the wording to mention that it would “change Maine law” or “redefine marriage”.
The group’s executive director said it was “redundant and potentially misleading” to include a mention of freedom from being forced to perform ceremonies, saying there are “other religious liberty issues we believe are jeopardized” by marriage equality.