Maine officials have given the OK for placing a measure on the November ballot allowing state voters to legalize same-sex marriage in the Pine Tree State.
Secretary of State Charles Summers announced on Thursday have proponents of marriage equality had 85,216 valid signatures for their initiative — far above the 57,277 threshold needed for certification.
“I commend the organizers of this effort for their success in meeting the required threshold,” Summers said in a statement. “I also want to thank my staff in the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions for their hard work in ensuring that the integrity of the process was preserved and the statutory deadline for the determination was met.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, proponents of marriage equality submitted 96,137 signatures for the initiative, but 10,921 signatures were deemed invalid. Advocates say they turned in more than 105,000 signatures on Jan. 26.
The initiative, titled “An Act To Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom,” now goes before the Maine legislature, but lawmakers in the Republican-controlled body are unable to block the measure from going to the ballot in November.
The legislature can pass the measure into law, but that’s unlikely given the conservative makeup of the body. Lawmakers can also propose alternative language at the ballot — such as civil unions instead of same-sex marriage — but LGBT advocates say this outcome is also unlikely.
The language as proposed by LGBT advocates will almost certainly appear by state voters on Nov. 6. The ballot question would be the first ever in country to propose advancing marriage rights for gay couples as opposed to taking them away.
Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, said in a statement voters in Maine are ready to legalize same-sex marriage because of the work advocates have been doing to educate people on the issue.
“Same-sex couples want to marry for the same reasons other couples want to marry: because they love each other and want to spend their lives together,” Smith said. “During the last two years, our coalition has had thousands of face-to-face conversations about marriage with Mainers who have changed their minds about this issue. There’s no question that momentum is growing for same-sex marriage in Maine.”
In 2009, voters in Maine rejected via referendum by a vote of 53 percent a law signed by then-Gov. John Baldacci that had legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The situation may be different in 2012. Polls show 54 percent of Maine residents now support marriage equality.