As Election Day nears, the national spotlight is on Maine, where the latest battle over same-sex marriage is under way. Campaign finance reports show that supporters of a ballot proposal to repeal the state's gay marriage law are trailing significantly in fundraising. But polls show a tight race.
Same-sex marriage opponents are telling Maine voters in television and radio ads that failure to repeal the law will have consequences for their children at school.
In ads similar to those that ran in California, a Massachusetts couple says that after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, their son came home from school and said he was taught that boys could marry other boys.
"He's in second grade!" the mother says.
The couple says he was read a fairy tale called King and King, which tells the story of a prince who falls in love with another prince and marries him.
In a separate TV spot, another book called Who's in a Family? comes under fire. The children's story includes illustrations and brief descriptions of different kinds of families, including those headed by single parents, grandparents and same-sex couples.
Rallying The Base
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said this week that she could find no connection between the same-sex marriage law and a requirement for public schools to teach kids about it. A recent poll of 401 likely Maine voters found that 61 percent of respondents did not believe same-sex marriage would be taught in school.
It also showed that there aren't many voters on the fence.
"Most people have a set opinion on this," says Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine. "So this campaign isn't really to win hearts and minds, or to shape opinion."
Instead, Brewer says, the ads are designed to rally opponents of same-sex marriage. While the latest poll gives an edge to same-sex marriage supporters, campaign organizers from both camps are expecting a close race.
And that's why Marc Mutty, the chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, sent out an urgent e-mail to supporters this week. In it, he said the effort to repeal Maine's same-sex marriage law was in jeopardy unless the campaign received a major cash infusion.
"We're not meeting our budget," he wrote. "We certainly had to cut back on television and radio because of the budget shortfalls, and we had planned a bus tour where we would go from city to city, and we had to cancel that because that's an expensive proposition, which we just can't afford at this point."
Campaign finance reports show same-sex marriage opponents trailing supporters by $1.6 million. Opponents have received most of their money from three organizations: the National Organization for Marriage, which is under scrutiny by the Maine Ethics Commission for the source of its donations; the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland; and Focus on the Family. Supporters, meanwhile, have raised $2.7 million and boast of having 12,000 individual donors — about half from out of state.
"It's just really astounding," says Jesse Connolly, Protect Maine Equality's campaign manager. "People have dug deep. Some have given $5, others have given $500, but I think it really shows the level of support that we have from people both here in Maine and across the country."
Connolly says he isn't taking anything for granted; and Brewer says he shouldn't. Brewer says same-sex marriage opponents may be behind in fundraising, but a lot of that money can be made up in the next two weeks. In the end, he says, it will all come down to which side does a better job galvanizing supporters and getting them to the polls on Nov. 3.