AUGUSTA — The coalition supporting a proposal to recognize same-sex marriage in Maine said Thursday it was pleased by Secretary of State Charlie Summers’ decision to revise the wording of the question to be posed to voters on the Nov. 6 ballot, while opponents called the new wording fair.
Summers announced that the final language will ask: “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”
The secretary, Maine’s top election official, proposed a shorter question last month, which asked: “Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
Same-sex marriage supporters who called for additional wording during a 30-day comment period said the new wording makes it clear that the proposed law is about civil marriage and that no church or religious institution can be sued for refusing to recognize or perform a marriage. They had opposed the first question advanced by Summers, saying it was incomplete and inaccurate.
“We are pleased that the secretary of state took into account our concerns and has changed the question to more accurately reflect the contents of the citizens’ initiative,” Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said in a statement.
Summers said his office, with input from senior staff, took into account all of the comments that were received during the 30-day comment period when creating the new wording of the question which will appear on the ballot.
Summers said his office received more than 600 comments on the original wording proposed by his office. He said this wording is at a seventh-grade reading level. The last proposed question was sixth-grade, he said.
“One side wanted more information. One side wanted more but different information,” he said Thursday night after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new Augusta hotel. “I just want to make sure everybody understands what they’re voting on.”
When asked about why freedom for religious groups was left out of the question’s wording, Summers said he wanted to be careful how he answered as to not “color” opinion around it.
“We want to be sure we don’t confuse issues,” he said. “I think it’s important that what we’re talking about is the state issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples.”
A leader of Protect Marriage Maine, a political action committee that opposes the referendum, said the new question finds a satisfactory middle ground.
“I would have preferred it to have language asking whether you want to redefine marriage,” said Rev. Bob Emrich, chairman of Protect Maine Marriage. He added that he was pleased the new question does not include “misleading” language about protections for religious liberties.
Staff writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this story.