Activists to urge Maine voters to oppose marriage referendum
Activists and their allies throughout the country continue to answer the call to help Maine preserve its marriage for same-sex couples law. And they will place some on Sunday.
Hundreds of activists will phone Maine voters during a National Day of Action on Sept. 27 to urge them to vote against a referendum on Nov. 3 that would reserve the law enacted earlier this year that extended marriage to gays and lesbians.
With polls showing public opinion on marriage running neck-and-neck in the Pine Tree State, the phone-a-thon is one of a number of strategies activists have implemented against repealing the law. Others include a campaign to get volunteers from around the nation on the ground in the state and an on-line "walk" to raise more than $35,000 in additional donations.
The Equality Federation, a San Francisco-based organization of statewide LGBT groups, has organized this effort. The organization created a "virtual phone bank" with software that will allow callers with a computer and a phone line to contact voters without incurring long-distance charges.
According to Executive Director Toni Broaddus, the federation has emailed an action alert that asks volunteers to sign up on Protect Maine Equality’s Web site to participate.
Groups in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Hawaii, Georgia, Missouri, Florida and Vermont are among those who have already signed onto the effort. Additional state groups are expected to ask their members to participate. Thus far, the federation and state organizations have asked more than 53,000 people around the country to volunteer to staff the phone banks.
"By the end of this week, we hope to triple that number," Broaddus told EDGE.
Protect Maine Equality has a goal of getting 500 volunteers to staff the phone banks for two and a half hours on Sunday.
"On any given day we have literally dozens of phone banks going on in the state of Maine in communities in all 16 counties," spokesperson Mark Sullivan told EDGE. "But we certainly welcome the support from equality supporters across the nation."
Protect Maine Equality also continues to promote Volunteer Vacation, a program that encourages people to either travel to the state for a week or two or sponsor those who want to go there to help get out the vote. Sullivan said part of the effort is to get Maine residents to vote early by absentee ballot.
No on 1 organizers also has produced a series of radio and television commercials that urge voters to reject the referendum. The first, sponsored by the Equality Maine Foundation, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and the Maine Civil Liberties Union, featured Maine residents. They include the father of two daughters, one a lesbian, who talks about his support of marriage for same-sex couples. In another, a high school student with two moms calls on Maine voters to "do the right thing" and recognize the legal status of same-sex couples.
In mid-September, Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization that placed the referendum on the ballot, aired its first commercial. It focused on how the marriage law would affect school curriculums and "other things that are not true," Sullivan reported.
Referendum opponents responded quickly.
"We counteracted with an ad featuring a teacher who talked about what is actually taught in Maine schools and will continue to be taught," Sullivan said.
Protect Maine Equality’s commercials are airing in all three Maine TV markets: Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle.
Sullivan would not divulge how much money has been donated to the No on 1 campaign, but he said many contributions have come in during the last several weeks and urged more contributions to "combat the efforts of our opponents."
A "Walk Against 1" virtual on-line campaign has a goal of raising one dollar for each of Maine’s 35,855 square miles by Oct. 9. Participants are asked to visit No on 1/Protect Maine Equality’s Web site and set a mileage goal they can share with their friends to provide pledges. Organizers say the funds are needed to fund the field program during the last four weeks, a period they deem "critical."
The most recent figures available on a Maine government ethics committee Web site shows the campaign raised $143,290 during a three-week period in June and early July. The opposition’s political action committee raised $343,659.50 during the first two weeks of June alone.