Politics

November 2, 2012

Pro-gay-marriage rally emphasizes voter turnout

But Protect Marriage Maine is also working to make sure its supporters make their voices heard.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

PORTLAND - Gay-marriage supporters who rallied Thursday evening in Monument Square heard one message loud and clear: With just five days to go before the election, they must get their base to the polls.

click image to enlarge

Vander Zanden, coalition director for Mainers United, addresses the crowd.

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Attendees at a same-sex marriage rally Thursday night in Portland’s Monument Square included Matt Pines, who brought his son, Tanner, 18 months.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

"The world is watching," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "The other 49 states are watching right now. Send a message to the country that we can win. We can win at the ballot box."

Never in the history of the gay-rights movement have voters approved gay marriage by popular vote. More than 30 times, voters in several states across the country have rejected gay marriage, mostly by adopting constitutional amendments to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Maine is one of four states voting on gay marriage next week. Maryland and Washington voters will consider whether to uphold same-sex marriage laws passed by their legislatures, while Minnesota voters will consider a constitutional amendment to ban it.

About 300 people gathered Thursday night in downtown Portland as part of the final push leading to Tuesday's vote. After the rally, some of the attendees walked down the street to Portland City Hall to cast their ballots.

The rally was the second high-profile event in as many days by gay-marriage supporters who have spent more than two years trying to convince a majority of Maine voters to approve a ballot measure that will allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

On Wednesday, gay-marriage supporters got a boost when the alternative/pop group fun. played a sold-out show at the State Theatre and donated all the ticket sales -- estimated to generate $25,000 -- to Mainers United for Marriage.

"It's the most important issue of our generation," fun. drummer Jack Antonoff said in an interview before the show. "It's the civil rights issue of our generation. It's painful to exist in a place where innocent people are treated as second-class citizens."

While the Yes on 1 campaign has held two public events in the days before Tuesday's election, both sides are working the ground game behind the scenes. Whether it's phone calls, yard signs, literature drops or conversations with friends, the name of the game at this point is get out the vote.

Volunteers on both sides said they remember the outcome in 2009, when Mainers repealed a same-sex marriage law 53 percent to 47 percent. Supporters say things have changed following more than two years of conversations with thousands of voters. Opponents say they represent the silent majority, many of whom won't speak up or show their opposition with a sign, but will vote Tuesday.

Carol Kemmerer of Hallowell is a volunteer for Protect Marriage Maine, the major group opposing the ballot measure. She estimates she's put together well over 1,200 yard signs and has made phone calls, posted fliers and distributed bumper stickers. She didn't volunteer in 2009, but stepped up this time because she wanted her voice to be heard.

"I said enough's enough and I'm just going to speak my mind and put myself out there," she said.

Kemmerer, 58, said she feels "rather optimistic" that Question 1 will be defeated despite the huge cash advantage enjoyed by gay-marriage supporters. Recent campaign finance reports show the major campaign in support of gay-marriage raising $4.3 million, compared to $1.4 million by opponents.

Another Protect Marriage Maine volunteer, Sydney Dunlap, 28, of Scarborough, said she's spent time calling voters and distributing signs in southern Maine. Personally, she's concerned that people will no longer be able to speak out against gay marriage if it becomes legal. She said gay marriage runs counter to her own religious beliefs.

"In other states there's been an attack on people who disagree with it," she said. "There's a concern about that type of aggression against people."

Protect Marriage Maine, which is based in Augusta, is running a campaign that relies heavily on church-based volunteers and on those who make phone calls from home, rather than at campaign headquarters, said Carroll Conley, one of three major decision-makers for Protect Marriage Maine and the executive director of the Christian Civic League.

For months, Conley has traveled the state each weekend to give talks at various churches. The campaign is also encouraging supporters to participate in a 48-hour fast Sunday night through Tuesday, and is offering a Christian Voter Guide to be inserted into church bulletins.

In addition, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland organized a series of talks about the Catholic view of marriage at various churches across the state. Bishop Richard Malone issued a statement last week urging Catholics to follow church teachings. "The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman ... is a matter of established Catholic doctrine," he said.

Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 621-5643 or at:

scover@mainetoday.com

 

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