People’s veto effort is likely to postpone weddings indefinitely

Posted May 06, 2009, at 7:43 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Although Gov. John Baldacci signed a same-sex marriage bill into law Wednesday, it appears unlikely any gay or lesbian couples will be able to tie the knot before a people’s veto effort keeps the law from going into effect.

All bills, except for emergency measures, passed this legislative session will go into effect on the 91st day after the Legislature adjourns, now scheduled for June 17. The deadline for submission of the 55,087 valid signatures needed to place the repeal on the ballot is 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

If the Legislature adjourns on time, the likely deadline for submitting petitions would be Sept. 15 and the law would take effect Sept. 16. Once the petitions are submitted, however, the law would be stayed from going into effect, according to elections officials.

Organizers of the effort to repeal the gay marriage law did not submit their application to the Secretary of State’s Office by 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to Julie Flynn, head of the Division of Corporations and Elections.

After the office receives the application, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and his staff have 10 working days to craft the wording of the question, Dunlap said.

Groups that want to repeal the law, including the Maine Family Policy Council, formerly the Christian Civic League of Maine; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Maine Jeremiah Project, could begin circulating petitions by May 22 if the application is submitted to Dunlap’s office today.

If opponents submit their signatures by the September deadline, Dunlap’s office then would have 30 calendar days to validate those signatures and certify the petitions. If not enough signatures were found to be valid, the measure would not be placed on the ballot.

The question of when the measure would go on the ballot also is unclear.

Because ballots must be printed 45 days before any election, it’s unlikely the repeal question could be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot, according to Dunlap. If that’s the case, it would be up to the Legislature to decide if the question were placed on the June 2010 primary ballot or the November 2010 general election ballot.

If the measure to repeal same-sex marriage fails at the polls, the law would not go into effect until the results of the election are certified, according to Flynn. The Secretary of State’s Office has 21 days to complete the certification process.

It would not be the first time Maine voters have weighed in on the issue of gay rights.

In 2005, Maine voters rejected an effort to repeal the law that added sexual orientation to the Maine Human Rights Act, 55 percent to 45 percent. That vote came seven years after they repealed a gay rights law at the polls, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Last summer, an initiative campaign to repeal Maine’s civil rights law and put in place roadblocks to gay marriages and adoptions was abandoned after supporters only gathered a third of the 15,000 signatures they hoped to on June 10, the date of the 2008 primary election.

Equality Maine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union and other groups that organized support for the same-sex marriage bill over the past six months have said they would work against the repeal effort.

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