AUGUSTA — Gay-rights advocates are looking toward the next three presidential elections as they consider pushing once again for Maine to legalize gay marriage, according to the leader of EqualityMaine.

There are compelling reasons to consider 2012, 2016 or 2020, said Betsy Smith, executive director of the state’s largest group representing lesbian and gay couples. Presidential elections are when two groups generally supportive of the gay-right movement — progressives and young people — are more likely to vote, she said.

At a recent annual dinner, Smith said she told the crowd she hopes they don’t have to wait until 2020 or even 2016 to bring the issue back to voters. In an interview, she was quick to point out that the group must continue to win over voters before they decide when to try again.

EqualityMaine recently added a few gay-marriage questions to a poll sponsored by a couple of progressive organizations that surveyed specifically with regard to the November 2012 election.

The results showed 53 percent support for gay marriage.

“If we ran a campaign now would we win 53 percent support?” she said. “I doubt it.”

Smith also pointed to another recent poll — this one conducted by Public Policy Polling — that had gay marriage at 47 percent support, which is exactly what they got in 2009 when they lost.

The issue got on the ballot that year through a people’s veto effort by conservative Christians and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. The Democratically controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. John Baldacci had approved gay marriage earlier in the year, but voters overturned their decision by a 53-47 percent vote.

Since then, the political climate in Augusta has changed dramatically, with a Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Paul LePage. LePage has said he opposes gay marriage, and instead favors legal protections for committed couples.

That means if EqualityMaine decides to move forward in 2012, it will need to gather enough signatures to effectively bypass the Legislature and the governor and go directly to voters.

Smith said her group will continue its educational efforts over the coming months, including a ramp up of door-to-door visits to try to win support. It won’t be until early 2012 that they will decide whether they have made enough progress to head back to the polls.

“More Maine voters need to move (on the issue) before we go back into a referendum campaign,” she said.

And while a final decision about whether to try to get on the November 2012 ballot won’t likely be made until early that year, gay-marriage supporters would have to start gathering signatures this year to get the 57,277 necessary to qualify for a citizen initiative.

Smith said they’d want them in their pocket in case they decided to get on the ballot.

But even that decision has yet to be made.

“We’re not to that point yet,” she said.

Labor mural on YouTube

Someone called “BrokeFix” recently posted a video on YouTube that shows what the labor mural taken down by the LePage administration would look like if it were projected onto the side of the State House.

“The Maine Labor Mural Projection Bombing on the Capitol” has had 20,985 views, with 408 “likes” and five “dislikes.”

It can be found at

New ‘high-profile commission’

Sen. Richard Woodbury, a Yarmouth independent, is sponsoring L.D. 1437 “An Act to Implement Recommendations on Reinventing Government.”

The bill is a concept draft, which will give the State and Local Government Committee plenty of leeway to craft it as they see fit. A public hearing has yet to be scheduled.

What’s unusual about the bill is the concept draft language:

“The bill proposes to establish a process by which more profound changes in governance and public policy in Maine can be advanced and implemented. It is intended to accomplish more fundamental system reforms that elude the traditional legislative process.”

Essentially the bill seeks to create a “high-profile Commission on Reinventing Maine Government” that would be “composed of established statesmen and stateswomen” who will study past reports on ways to improve government and come up with their own ideas. The recommendations of the commission would either have to be accepted by the Legislature as presented or sent directly to the voters.

Raising awareness of the ‘move over’ law

Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, recently presented a bill to raise awareness of the state law that requires drivers to move over if a police officer has someone stopped on the interstate.

The measure, L.D. 970, increases the fine for passing in an unsafe manner from $250 to $500 for two years while the state creates a public awareness program about the law. After the two year period, the fine will go back to $250.

The Transportation Committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks to consider Cornell du Houx’s bill.

Competitive grant resolution

The House and Senate last week passed a joint resolution calling on the federal government to distribute education money through a formula, rather than competitive grants.

“The shift to competitive grants as opposed to formula allocations will hurt rural states like Maine that lack the people or the capacity at the state and local levels to devote to the grant-writing process,” the resolution reads.

It notes that the Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association have also taken formal votes in opposition to competitive grants.

The resolution, sponsored by House Majority Leader Phil Curtis, R-Madison, will be sent to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the four members of Maine’s Congressional delegation.

State House Bureau writer Susan Cover contributed to this column.