AUGUSTA, Maine — Gay-marriage opponents who put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the successful effort to ban such marriages in Maine are taking their show on the road.
The National Organization for Marriage kicked off its 23-city “One Man, One Woman’’ bus tour yesterday in Maine, where voters last fall rejected a law that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed.
About 100 people showed up at a rally at noon at Capitol Park, at which speakers said it’s important to defend traditional marriage. Earlier, about 80 people showed up at a separate rally in the nearby State House in support of legalizing gay marriage.
Brian Brown, the president of NOM, said marriage is an important national issue, noting that California’s Proposition 8, which outlaws gay marriages in that state, may go to the US Supreme Court for a final decision, and a judge ruled in Boston last week that key parts of a federal law banning gay marriage are unconstitutional.
“When they tell you that standing up for this is the equivalent to bigotry, don’t be cowed, don’t be silenced; understand that you are standing up for a great good,’’ Brown said at the Capitol Park gathering.
At the State House rally, Governor John Baldacci joined others in showing support for laws allowing marriage for same-sex couples.
Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, accused members of the National Organization for Marriage of being “fear mongers.’’ In the campaign leading to last November’s vote in Maine, NOM donated nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political group that led the fight to repeal the gay marriage law.
“It’s exactly why they’re back today, to scare Mainers into thinking their families are under attack from families like mine,’’ Smith said.
Carla Hopkins, of Mount Vernon, said she and her longtime partner, Victoria Eleftheriou, should be preparing their son for kindergarten and doing summer activities this time of year instead of having to worry about “the fear of lies’’ spread by gay marriage opponents from out of state.
Maine legislators last year voted to legalize marriage between members of the same sex. But by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent, Mainers overturned the law, which never went into effect.
NOM’s bus tour is also scheduled to make stops in New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.