Draft of Maine ballot question fails to convey true mission of initiative

Today, Mainers United for Marriage outlined its case for revising the draft language of the citizen's initiatve that voters will decide on during the November election. Mainers United, a coalition of organizations committed to winning marriage in Maine, has been working this year to proactively win the freedom to marry at the ballot. 

Last week, the Maine Secretary of State released the draft language for the ballot. The question reads: "Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?"

Now Mainers United has outlined how the language fails to communicate the real aims of the ballot initiative. The act - entitled "An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom" - explicitly asks voters to approve of civil marriage, and it would only amend the state's marriage licensing law. Religious protections related to marriage were also purposely implemented into the act.

Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United, communicated the coalition's disappointment with the question in a statement today. He said:

The question, as currently drafted, falls short. It fails to address important parts of the initiative that will be on the ballot in November. Mainers United will present our case to the Secretary of State and ask that the question be revised to more accurately reflect the citizen's initiative that was signed by more than 105,000 Mainers and already certified by the Secretary of State.

The primary way in which the draft language falls short is by excluding any information about the religious exemptions that would be included in the Maine freedom to marry law. No member of the clergy or any church, religious denomination or other religious institution would be required to perform any marriage if they felt it violated their religious beliefs. This integral clause would allow same-sex couples the same government protections that different-sex couples receive while also ensuring religious freedom for all. 

Although the draft ballot is concise and to-the-point, its simplicity leaves out several enormously important aspects to the freedom to marry initiative. 

Mainers United announced today that the coalition will submit a formal critique and response to the draft language during the 30-day public comment period, which extends until July 16. The coalition's preferred language, which was submitted as an early part of the initiative process, read: "Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?"

The Maine Secretary of State will hear public comments on the proposed question for the next month. Comments can be filed by emailing sos.office@maine.gov or by sending them to the Secretary of State's office in Augusta. Freedom to Marry urges marriage supporters to speak out about the problems with the draft ballot and encourages the Secretary of State to accurately reflect the true intent of the citizens' initiative.  

Pastor Michael Gray from the United Methodist Church, the lead signer of the pro-freedom to marry initiative, spoke at a Mainers United press conference yesterday. Video is below.