PORTLAND, Maine — Gay marriage foes in Maine have hired the public relations firm that led the successful Proposition 8 proposal to overturn same-sex marriage in California, while supporters have turned to a legislative aide who led a successful campaign to retain Maine’s gay rights law.
Schubert Flint Public Affairs will provide guidance to the campaign to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law, just as it did during the Proposition 8 campaign in California.
Meanwhile, Maine Freedom to Marry has hired Jesse Connolly, who’s taking a leave of absence as chief of staff to House Speaker Hannah Pingree. Connolly, of South Portland, led Maine Won’t Discriminate’s successful 2005 campaign to keep the state’s gay rights law.
Connolly said his political action committee has no specific fundraising goal but is preparing for a high-profile and costly campaign. There will be direct mail and media advertising, but there will also be plenty of one-on-one conversations with voters, he said.
“This is going to be a campaign that a lot of folks are going to try to say has national implications,” Connolly said.
Maine was the fifth state to approve gay marriages when Gov. John Baldacci signed the legislation on May 6. New Hampshire later followed suit, so all New England states except Rhode Island now permit same-sex couples to marry. Iowa also allows it.
In Maine, the law goes into effect in September unless, before then, opponents collect the signatures of at least 55,087 registered voters. If so, the law will be put on hold pending a statewide referendum that could be held as early as Election Day in November.
Marc Mutty, spokesman for Stand For Marriage Maine and for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said petition-gathering is under way with volunteers and paid workers. They’re getting a boost from the diocese, which is allowing signature-gathering at churches.
As for Schubert Flint, the California firm will serve as a consultant but won’t play as big a role as it did in the California initiative, Mutty said.
In California, Schubert Flint helped to overturn a court ruling allowing gay marriage. The initiative, which amended the state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman, passed with 52 percent of the vote.
Jeff Flint from Schubert Flint said his firm will provide some overall strategic advice and campaign management in Maine but won’t be sending staff.
“The campaign is not about Schubert Flint. It’s about the definition of marriage in Maine,” he said. “Certainly it appears to us that the majority of people, notwithstanding what the Legislature and the governor did, support the traditional definition of marriage and want it to stay that way.”
Connolly said the grass roots campaign that pressed for Maine’s law is ready to get back to work to uphold the decision of the Legislature and governor. “No matter who they bring in to run the campaign, we feel we’re in a strong position to uphold this law,” he said.