Abbott joins Republicans supporting gay marriage
Steve Abbott, a former candidate for Maine governor and the current athletic director at the University of Maine, said Thursday he's joining other prominent Republicans who support the same-gender marriage proposal on this fall's ballot.
He joins other new members of Republicans United for Marriage, including Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and Kenneth Lindell, a former state representative from Frankfort. Republican state Rep. Stacey Fitts of Pittsfield already has announced in TV ads that he will vote for the measure. Fitts voted against a 2009 gay marriage referendum but says has since changed his mind.
Mainers United for Marriage and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine announced the new supporters at news conferences in Portland and Bangor. The Facebook group, Maine Republicans for Equal Marriage, boasts more than 1,000 followers.
“As a Republican, I value personal responsibility and believe that the family is the foundation of our community. That's why I support the freedom to marry for all, loving committed couples in Maine,” Abbott, who ran for governor in 2010, said in a statement.
The issue of gay marriage, which Maine voters will decide on Nov. 6, marks a sharp dividing line between the Democratic and Republican parties. In their statement of party principles, Democrats support gay marriage, while the Republican platform that also was adopted this spring supports marriages of one man, one woman.
While Republicans who support same-gender marriage may seem out-of-step with their party, platforms are in no way binding, and party members, including candidates, frequently waver from platform statements.
Dan Demeritt, former director of communications for GOP Gov. Paul LePage, said he supports the right of gay couples to get marriage licenses for both personal and political reasons.
“I am a proud and devoted dad of young boys. I want them to grow up and have wives and kids of their own. But if they take a different path, I want Maine law to provide the same support for them, as I know I will,” Demeritt said.
But opponents have been active on the Internet and in debates. They also are airing TV ads. The website maine4marriage.org said its opponents are trying to redefine marriage “in the most radical way imaginable.”
“Anyone who is currently supporting same-sex marriage must first understand that marriage is one of society's most fundamental social institutions,” the website says.
Robinson supports marriage in Maine
The first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church visited Maine for a second time on behalf of the campaign seeking to legalize same-sex marriage.
Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire discussed marriage Tuesday evening at the Cathedral of St. Luke in Portland. Beforehand, he signed copies of his new book, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk on Marriage.
The event was sponsored by the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination and Integrity Maine, two groups that support the Nov. 6 ballot question asking if gay marriage should be legal.
Robinson married his longtime male partner three years ago the day gay marriage became legal in New Hampshire.
Maine anti-gay marriage ad features Vt. innkeepers
Opponents of Maine's gay marriage referendum say a new TV ad featuring Vermont innkeepers who were sued after refusing to host a lesbian couple's wedding reception shows how legalizing gay marriage can threaten free speech, but same-sex marriage supporters say they're twisting the truth.
In the ad, Jim O'Reilly of the Wildflower Inn in Lyndonville says he and his wife paid $30,000 to settle the lawsuit and can no longer host any weddings simply because they don't support gay marriage because of their religious beliefs. A voiceover on the 15-second ad then says, “Vote No on Question 1 to avoid this in Maine,” a reference to the Nov. 6 ballot question asking residents if they want to legalize same-sex marriage.
Gay marriage opponents say that the ad sends a message that legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine will have a chilling effect on free speech and that people no longer will feel free to follow their religious convictions.
“The message is there are serious consequences to redefining marriage,” said Bob Emrich, co-chairman of the Protect Marriage Maine political action committee, which paid for the ad. “It's not simply expanding marriage to other people. It's forcing everyone to agree; it's forcing everyone to change their convictions."
Supporters of Maine's gay marriage referendum say the O'Reillys were sued because they violated Vermont's anti-discrimination laws. Protect Marriage Maine is distorting the truth by suggesting the lawsuit had anything to do with same-sex marriage being legal in Vermont, said David Farmer, spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage, which is leading the campaign in favor of gay marriage.
“This is a red herring. It's a scare tactic. And it's meant to scare voters,” Farmer said.
Two New York women sued the Wildflower Inn last year, saying it violated the state's anti-discrimination statutes by refusing to host their wedding reception because they're gay.
The O'Reillys settled the lawsuit in August by agreeing to pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the Vermont Human Rights Commission, to place $20,000 in a charitable trust and to no longer host any weddings or receptions.
Like Vermont, Maine already has a law that prevents businesses from discriminating against gay couples regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal, Farmer said. The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment, housing or access to public accommodations based on race, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin.
“It would be no different than a Catholic baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a Protestant couple,” Farmer said. “When you're open to the public and in the business of public accommodation, you can't discriminate against folks.”
--Clarke Canfield, Associated Press