“We need not think alike to love alike.” This quotation of Francis David appeared on the wall of the First Universalist Church in Auburn, Maine where the organization called Vote No on 1 / Protect Maine Equality held one of five “community conversations” this week.
Betsy Smith, Executive Director of Equality Maine and Executive Committee member of the NO on 1 / Protect Maine Equality campaign, explained the current state of the battle over Ballot Question 1, a referendum in which a “Yes” vote revokes the right of same-sex couples to get married. A transcript:
Let’s talk about how we got here. I think most of you know that this spring Maine made history by being the first state in the country to pass a marriage bill through the legislature and have it signed by the governor. Give yourselves a round of applause. But what we are most proud of, though, is how we won. This victory was the result of tens of thousands of Mainers who became involved in the movement for marriage equality in Maine. It was truly an example of where the people led and the leaders followed. Voter and political experts have called it the best, most well executed legislative campaign in Maine’s history.
But all the accolades won’t matter if we don’t come together and win in November. We can do this. We cannot let this historic win go to waste. Think of the public hearing and the Judiciary Committee vote and the House vote and the Senate vote. All of it will be for nothing if we don’t win in November. We must carry our historic win all the way through to November 3rd to another historic win: winning marriage at the ballot box. We can do this.
So let’s talk about what this campaign looks like. We are NO on 1 / Protect Maine Equality. We have 5 offices around the state: Portland, Bangor, Lewiston, Ogunquit and Hallowell. We have a campaign staff of 30. That is unprecedented for an LGBT campaign in Maine. Of those 30 staff, 18 are field organizers. That will tell you a little something about how we are going to win this campaign.
We have a team of people raising money from donors all across the state, and we also have a top-notch team of consultants for polling, TV, mail consultants. And finally, we have you: our local partners on the ground who are helping to win this campaign every single day.
Now of course we’d rather not be in a campaign, but our opponents are working very hard to pass this people’s veto. They call themselves “Stand for Marriage Maine,” and they are an umbrella organization made up of 3 main players:
* The Catholic Diocese. Although the Catholic leadership has been very vocal in this campaign, it is very important to distinguish between the church hierarchy and individual parishoners. We have many Catholic supporters, and in fact there’s a group in Maine called Catholics for Marriage Equality.
* National Organization for Marriage. This is a national anti-equality group that has been involved in many of these campaigns around the country.
* Third, we have Schubert Flint, which is a California-based PR firm that ran Proposition 8 last year, which stripped away the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry in California. And they are coming to Maine to try and do it again.
So there is a lot of national attention on this campaign, and it’s not by accident. Our opponents have called Maine “Ground Zero” in the fight over marriage. They know that we have never won marriage at the ballot box, so they will do anything to win this campaign. They will stop at nothing to win this campaign, and that is why we are in the fight of our lives.
Being in the fight of our lives, we are going to have to work harder, be more strategic, give more and do more than we have ever done before.