Move to get marriage equality over the line in Maine

Task Force's Sarah Reece celebrating in front of the more than 105,000 signatures gathered to put a marriage equality initiative on the ballot in Maine

The Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition today announced it was moving forward with placing a marriage equality amendment on the November 2012 ballot. At a press conference in the statehouse in Augusta, the coalition said it had gathered more than 105,000 signatures, nearly twice the necessary number required to place the “Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-Sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom” on the general election ballot in November. If the measure qualifies, it will mark the first time a marriage equality initiative has been voted on at the ballot box.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has deep roots in Maine that stretch back more than a decade with side-by-side work to train leaders and provide staff and financial support for the ultimately successful effort to pass and defend the state’s non-discrimination law and the work to build public opinion to a majority of support for marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey said:

Maine is poised to make history, and we are proud to be part of this journey — a long journey filled with nitty-gritty hard work, poignant and personal conversations about our lives and why marriage is so meaningful, occasional setbacks, and a jaw-dropping supply of energy, tenacity and inspiration. Changing hearts and minds may sound like a saggy cliche, but in reality that’s what is happening. A transformation is unfolding thanks to years of effort, all building toward this moment. We are on the brink of marriage equality in Maine. We now have this all-important push toward November 2012. This means more doors to knock on, more conversations to have, and yes, more opportunities to change hearts and minds. We look forward to continuing to support our state partner EqualityMaine and the entire marriage coalition to get this done. Loving, committed Maine same-sex couples and their families deserve nothing less.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund have invested significantly in the work of EqualityMaine to build greater political power for the LGBT community:

In 2009, the Task Force Foundation:

  • Gave $82,000 to launch and grow EqualityMaine’s first-ever voter identification project. The grant enabled EqualityMaine to hire its first statewide organizer to recruit and train hundreds of volunteers to talk with voters face to face about marriage equality and identify voters supportive of the issue. As a result, EqualityMaine has built a list of more than 50,000 identified supporters of the freedom to marry, one of the largest such state lists in the country.
  • Organized the Maine LGBT Power Summit in late April, which brought together 140 leaders from across the country, including more than 70 Mainers, for training in campaign fundamentals. At the summit, participants walked door to door and spoke with more than 1,100 voters about marriage equality.
  • Trained more than 30 additional Maine leaders at Task Force Power Summits in 2004-2005 to support EqualityMaine’s voter identification project.

In 2009, the Task Force Action Fund:

  • Sent organizers to work on the ground in Maine in February 2009 to launch EqualityMaine’s marriage equality field program. Following the April Power Summit, several Task Force organizers remained in Maine to provide additional field support in the final days leading up to the Senate vote.
  • Provided $20,000 to EqualityMaine in seed money in January 2009 to hire nine field organizers.
  • Dedicated a Task Force organizer to work full time for one month in the No on 1 campaign in 2005, which successfully defeated a referendum that would have repealed its statewide nondiscrimination law.
  • Contributed $93,000 to the No on 1 campaign.

In 2005, the Task Force Foundation:

  • Gave $75,000 in grants to Equality Maine to identify pro-LGBT voters.
  • Gave $94,500 in cash contributions to Maine Won’t Discriminate to fight the repeal effort.
  • Sent seasoned staff to work on the campaign, some of whom took key roles in volunteer recruitment and the GOTV campaign.
  • Led intensive training of more than two dozen Maine activists.
  • Operated 19 phone-bank sessions from New York and Washington, D.C., involving 198 volunteers and live contacts with 3,656 pro-LGBT voters in Maine.