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Maine Gay-Marriage Advocates Get Enough Signatures for Ballot

Voters in Maine will decide in November whether to allow same-sex couples to marry after state officials confirmed enough valid signatures to place the question on the ballot.

Secretary of State Charles E. Summers Jr. verified more than 85,000 of the 105,000 signatures submitted last month, said Barbara Redmond, his deputy secretary. About 57,000 names were required, according to EqualityMaine, the Portland-based gay-rights group leading the coalition that collected them.

“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,” Betsy Smith, EqualityMaine’s executive director, said in a statement. “There’s no question that momentum is growing for same-sex marriage in Maine.”

It will be the second time Mainers confront the issue at the ballot box. In 2009, voters rejected by 53 percent to 47 percent a law permitting gay marriage that was championed by Democratic lawmakers and signed by then-Governor John Baldacci, also a Democrat. In 2010, Republicans won control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s seat for the first time since 1966.

The law wouldn’t require religious institutions or clergy to perform the marriages in violation of their religious beliefs. Anti-gay marriage advocates have vowed to fight the measure.

Maine voters would be the first in the U.S. to give same-sex partners the right to wed. Court rulings or legislation led to the change in seven states and the District of Columbia. Voters have rejected legalization in all 31 referendums on the issue, according to Freedom to Marry, a New York-based national advocacy organization.

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