AUGUSTA — Less than three years after voters rejected a law to allow gay marriage in Maine, all signs indicate that advocates plan to move forward with another ballot measure in November.

EqualityMaine, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and other groups will gather at the State House today for an announcement at noon. The groups did not say Wednesday what they have decided, but the coalition has spent months gathering signatures and working to convince voters that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to wed in Maine.

“We look forward to making an announcement tomorrow about our future plans,” said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the civil liberties union. She declined to elaborate.

Opponents of gay marriage, who overturned the law passed in 2009 to allow it, say they fully anticipate that today’s press conference is to announce the launch of a new campaign. They are prepared for another fight.

“I’m disappointed and I’m sad they are going to do it,” said Bob Emrich, a Baptist pastor in Plymouth who led the people’s veto referendum campaign in 2009. “We’re ready to do what we need to do.”

Advocates say they have gathered far more than the 57,277 signatures they need to get a question on the state ballot this November. If they turn them in by Monday’s deadline, Secretary of State Charlie Summers will have 30 days to determine whether enough signatures are valid. Then, a bill would be presented to the Legislature.

Lawmakers could adopt the proposal or send it to referendum.

Supporters of gay marriage face a very different environment in Augusta than they did three years ago. In May 2009, a Legislature with Democratic majorities passed a gay-marriage bill and Democratic Gov. John Baldacci signed it.

Immediately, Emrich and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland began a campaign to overturn the law. Voters did that six months later, 53 percent to 47 percent.

This year, the Legislature and the governor’s office are controlled by Republicans. Gov. Paul LePage has said he opposes same-sex marriage but supports some rights for committed couples.

Emrich said his coalition will likely look different this time around, too, with the Christian Civic League of Maine playing a much more active role. The league released a statement Wednesday expressing opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Unnatural marriage, as seen in cases across the country, will curtail religious freedom,” the statement reads. “If unnatural marriage is put on the referendum, then all Mainers who trust that their government will uphold religious freedom will, once again, come to the voting booth to keep our current marriage laws.”

Bellows said that’s not the case.

“We can affirm traditional constitutional values of religious liberty and equal protection under the law by endorsing the freedom to marry,” she said.

Six states — New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Iowa — and Washington, D.C., allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

And this week, a previously undecided Democratic lawmaker in the state of Washington announced her support for gay marriage, paving the way for passage of a law legalizing it there. Opponents have said they will file for a referendum to challenge it.

MaineToday Media State House Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]