How the Maine referendum system works

Posted on 06 May 2009 at 1:01pm

Okay, so Maine Gov. Balducci today signed legislation making his state the fifth in the U.S. to currently give legal recognition to same-sex marriages. California did so for a brief period last year, between June when the state Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage went into effect and Nov. 4 when the voters amended the state constitution.

While marriage equality supporters are celebrating today, we have to remember that marriage in Maine could go the way of marriage California, since Maine has a referendum system that would allow the voters to, in effect, veto the legislation.

It’s called “the people’s veto” and here’s how it works, according to Marty Rouse with the Human Rights Campaign.

Marriage equality opponents would have to gather signatures from at least 10 percent of those who voted in the state’s last gubernatorial election — Rouse said that would be about 54,000 signatures — by 90 days after the legislative session ends (on or about Sept. 15, depending on the Legislature). That would allow them to put the issue to voters in an election next year.

To get the issue on the ballot in November this year, though, they would have to have their 54,000 signatures to the Secretary of State by Sept. 4.

If they get enough signatures to put the question on the ballot, the law is suspended until voters make the final decision.

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