June 18, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Marriage equality referenda often come down to a battle of words, since the precise language that appears on the ballot can often have significant psychological effects with votes and contribute to the measures’ success or defeat. Late last week, the Maine Secretary of State released the proposed language for Maine’s November marriage equality ballot, and neither proponents nor opponents of the measure are pleased with its simple, 10-word phrasing: “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Supporters of marriage equality proposed a much longer ballot question, which 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?” Matt McTighe, campaign manager for the pro-marriage equality group Mainers United for Marriage, said that the proposed ballot language only addresses one of the law’s two important elements, and leaves out its provisions for religious protections, which could be important to swing voters who are on the fence about the law.
On the other hand, Bob Emrich, campaign manger for Protect Marriage Maine, who opposes the initiative, expressed his disappointment that the language did not include a statement about “redefining” marriage. He also said that it was unncessary to include the religious exemptions provision, saying, “I will do everything I can to voice an objection to putting that back into it.” He and other opponents are mobilizing their supporters to express their support for the current language.
Supporters and opponents of the initiave, as well as the public, have 30 days to respond to the proposed wording. After that comment period closes on the July 16, the Secretary of State will release the measure’s final wording, which will be followed by a 10-day appeal period.