Correction to This Article
The Maine's gay-marriage battle incorrectly said that the National Equality March in Washington is Saturday. The march is Sunday.
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Maine Proves a Low-Key Battleground — and Bellwether? — for Gay Marriage

Jesse Connolly heads the effort to affirm Maine's new law allowing same-sex marriage. A referendum is set for Nov. 3.
Jesse Connolly heads the effort to affirm Maine's new law allowing same-sex marriage. A referendum is set for Nov. 3. (Pat Wellenbach - AP)
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At the end of a 20-minute drive from Portland, past trees catching the red and yellow fire of autumn leaves, a small office on the side of Route 1 in Yarmouth displays a ballpoint scrawl of "Stand for Marriage Maine" on a Post-it note. Other than that, there is no indication that this is the conservative campaign's headquarters.

Inside, Mutty, the campaign's chairman on leave from the diocese, wore suspenders over his jean shirt and complained about "intimidation" from the gay-marriage supporters and silence from the national folks.

"We tried to get Romney involved, but nothing," said Mutty, referring to former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate. (Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said his political action committee had not been contacted.) Same for Huckabee, another presidential candidate who staunchly opposes gay marriage.

Mutty also claimed that the Mormon Church, which acted as a major backer to the effort to oppose gay marriage in California, has thus far not played a major role in Maine. (Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church "does not involve itself institutionally in every same-sex election contest.")

Just who is funding the opposition to gay marriage is difficult to verify. The majority of the money is coming from the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage. NOM is suspected of fronting for national conservative groups such as Focus on the Family, as well as the Catholic and Mormon churches, the Knights of Columbus and others. On Mutty's desk lay a copy of an Oct. 1 decision handed down by Maine's state ethics board announcing an investigation of NOM's funders. The finding is due after the election.

Not all the activity is so opaque. After Sunday Mass at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Congress Street, ushers handed parishioners a pamphlet from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ("Persons in same-sex unions cannot enter into a true conjugal union.") One of the churchgoers, Gwen De Cicco, 38, of Portland, said she had seen envelopes left on the pews at another church across town, soliciting donations for the campaign. The small print on the envelope notified parishioners that these donations were not tax deductible. She didn't approve.

"Civil matters are civil matters," she said.

The ads in Maine are produced by the same experienced hands that turned the California vote, but Mutty said that he only wished there was more money coming in from national conservatives. "It could be the first time that they are able to win at the polls," he said of the gay marriage advocates. "It would mean them breaking through. For us winning would mean holding them off. Maine could really blow it for them."

Connolly is determined not to screw it up. With the Democratic establishment reluctant to dive in wholeheartedly and fundraisers failing to collect big checks, Connolly has sought to activate bloggers through his friend Joe Sudbay, a Portland native and the deputy editor of the influential and progressive AmericaBlog. And they have joined the battle, helping raise nearly $1 million in online contributions, according to the Internet-based fundraising hub ActBlue. Plus, another native Mainer, Eli Pariser, president of MoveOn.org, has solicited Web donations from his cyber-flock.

"Sometimes," said Sudbay, who is gay and writes often about Maine. "I think we are driving the agenda."

One month out from the vote, as progressive blogs sought to heap pressure on Obama and Congress, Connolly and his campaign staff spent the afternoon in a ground-floor office furnished with blank computer screens, an overstuffed dorm-style couch and decorated with dozens of handwritten motivational signs ("Highlighting successes, Turning them into bigger asks," "Phone Bank Hall of Fame," "Days Left: 30").


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