Except that, two days after the bill's passage, a formal challenge was filed by the opposition.
Because Maine, like California, has a referendum system.
If the anti-marriage organizers could get 55,087 valid signatures together, the bill would be put to a vote before it would be allowed to take effect. And, like Proposition 8, that vote could destroy equal marriage in the state of Maine.
The anti-marriage campaigners hired the same public relations firm that helped to pass Proposition 8 in California to help them run the referendum effort. They also started lying to get signatures:
Gerard Caron walked into the Auburn Post Office and was met by a woman with a pair of clipboards. "This petition is against gay marriage and this other petition is to support gay marriage," she said, according to Caron. The Poland man said he asked her why there would be a petition to support something that already happened, referring to the petition "in support of" gay marriage. "She just kinda gave me a little grin and didn't say anything," he said. Then he looked at the two petitions and discovered they were identical, both were supporting the repeal of the same-sex marriage law, Caron said.
Because of free speech protections, there is no law in Maine that says you cannot lie to get someone to sign a petition – up to and including saying that someone's signature will protect marriage equality when it will in fact help to destroy it.
When the anti-marriage campaign reported its donations it was discovered they had out-raised pro-equality activists by two to one. Only check out where their donations came from:
$160,000 (nearly half of the fundraising) from the National Organization for Marriage
$100,000 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
$50,000 from the Knights of Columbus of Washington, D.C.
$31,000 from Focus on the Family, a Christian group based in Colorado Springs
$400 from four Maine citizens
Eight donors. This not what one would call a "grassroots" battle on the anti-marriage side.
Pro-equality activists had 501 people donating in that same time period, with the largest donation ($50,000) from a native Mainer. At the end of July the anti-marriage campaigners submitted 100,000 signatures (in most ballot battles the "best practices" number of signatures to get is twice the required amount).
The bill was held. There would be no September marriages in Maine. Dawn, a Maine building contractor who had planned to marry her sweetheart Laura, posted soon after hearing:
It's official: our wedding has been postponed.
We had planned to be married September 19, three days after the law went into effect that would allow us to get married, but now opponents of our civil rights have submitted something like 100,000 signatures, nearly twice the required amount, to force a state-wide public vote on whether we can get married.
So what do we do now? We fight like hell, that's what. We organize, and identify voters and talk to people. We attend public events wearing buttons that say "ask me why marriage equality matters" and "Vote No On 1" and we raise money, buy ads and do all of the campaign stuff we know how to do.
We ask for money. Like now. I'm asking you, my blog readers, to make a donation to help win this fight. The Catholic Diocese has pledged $2 MILLION. We're up against some pretty tough opponents. Your donation now at the No On 1 - Protect Maine Equality site will help us protect the law our legislature passed and governor signed.
And we talk and educate and raise money and keep at it. We're down to 94 days before the election is OVER. That means we have less than 100 days before the whole state gets to vote on whether we get married.
To my married readers - how many people did YOU have to ask for permission to get married? We have to ask the whole State of Maine.
Four days ago the required number of signatures was certified. The referendum is on the November 3rd ballot.
The pro-equality folks, No on 1, have two commercials on the air right now, both with real people talking about their families:
Meanwhile the anti-marriage campaigners have put out a casting call, so they can pay some people to pretend to be authentic Mainers.
Maine's voting laws allow no excuse absentee ballots - anyone who can vote in Maine can ask for an absentee ballot. This means people will begin voting on 1 as early as October, 24 days from now.
Campaign manager for the pro-equality No on 1, Jesse Connolly, says, "Every internal poll that I've seen shows it's very close."
We could lose Maine, just like we lost California. No on 1 needs your help.
What You Can Do
1. Go to Maine. The No on 1 folks are set up for "volunteer vacations" in October – people can come up, and from one Sunday to the next they can help the campaign recruit other volunteers, talk to voters, and help run the Get-Out-the-Vote operation.
2. Donate. Even small amounts help – they need to keep their commercials on the air, and keep paying for the phonebanking equipment they use to reach voters.
3. Call from Home: As with Vermont's battle, MassEquality, the organization that helped Massachusetts win and keep marriage equality, is lending a hand by letting people call remotely using its phone banking system. You'll be identifying supporters and helping get out the vote.
4. Talk to People. Do you know anyone who lives in Maine? Call them. Talk with them, and make sure that if they support equal marriage that they vote "no" on 1, whether by absentee ballot or on November 3rd.