PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition announced Tuesday that it has created Mainers United for Marriage, hired a campaign manager and created a website in support of its efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.
A referendum question asking whether same-sex marriage should be legalized will be on the November ballot.
“Mainers United for Marriage will build upon the incredible grassroots support that made it possible for our coalition to gather more than 105,000 signatures and place a question on the ballot in November to allow same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license,” Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, a member of The Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition, said in a press release issued Tuesday morning. “Mainers United for Marriage is the campaign organization that will lead us to victory in November.”
Protect Marriage Maine, a group that opposes passage of the referendum, expects to make a similar announcement next month, the Rev. Bob Emrich, a member of the group’s executive committee, said Tuesday. Protect Maine Marriage will work out of the offices of the Christian Civic League of Maine in Augusta, he said.
Smith also announced that Matt McTighe, 32, of York will serve as the campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage and work out of headquarters in Portland.
“Matt knows the marriage issue as well as anyone in the country and he’s been on the ground in Maine for the last two years,” Smith said. “He is the best person to lead the campaign in Maine. He’s committed to public service, dedicated to winning marriage equality and has the skills and experience necessary to organize and lead an effective statewide campaign.”
McTighe is a longtime advocate for the freedom to marry, according to the press release. While working for the Human Rights Campaign, he helped to defeat a proposed marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution, she said. He served as the political director for MassEquality during the Massachusetts marriage campaign. For the last two years, he has been the public education director in Maine for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, based in Boston.
In a conference call with reporters, McTighe said he expected the 2012 campaign to raise more than the $5 million spent in the 2009 attempt to keep the same-sex marriage law from being repealed. The other side spend $2.5 million, according to a previously published report.
Mainers on Nov. 3, 2009, voted 53 percent to 47 percent to repeal the law which allowed same-sex couples to marry. It had been passed by the Democratically controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Baldacci in the spring of 2009. After the loss at the ballot box, EqualityMaine began an outreach campaign to talk about the issue and began gathering signatures in August 2011 to put a question before voters again.
“Our goal is to make it possible for all loving couples to have the opportunity to share in the commitment and responsibility of marriage,” McTighe said. “ Public support for allowing same-sex couples to marry is growing in Maine. We’ve seen it in the polls, and we’ve heard it as hundreds of volunteers have had more than 50,000 conversations with people around our state. Hearts and minds are changing.”
Emrich disagreed with that claim.
“I do not think anything has changed at all [since 2009],” he said. “The polls showed the same thing exactly in October 2009 that they show now. Nothing has changed since then. They’ve been out talking to people, but so have we. Voters don’t want people to be discriminated against, but they don’t want marriage to be redefined.”
Emrich noted that since the repeal vote, Mainers have elected a Republican Senate, House of Representatives and governor.
“In the last election cycle, more conservative people were elected to the Legislature,” Emrich said. “Things have changed in Maine, but we’re becoming more conservative, not the other way around.”
In addition to announcing its name and campaign manager, Mainers United for Marriage on Tuesday launched a website, www.MainersUnited.org. The site eventually will expand into the campaign’s primary website and online portal, according to McTighe. The campaign has also launched Mainers United on Facebook and on Twitter, @MainersUnited.
Protect Marriage Maine is made up of the Christian Civic League of Maine, the National Organization for Marriage and Emrich. The Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition is made up of EqualityMaine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Maine Women’s Lobby, Engage Maine and 16 other organizations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.