AUGUSTA — Christian political activists jumped ahead of other gay rights foes Tuesday and took the first step toward forcing a statewide referendum on a bill giving homosexuals civil rights protections.
The Christian Civic League of Maine told state elections officials it intends to launch a “people’s veto” campaign to block the anti-discrimination bill, which met lawmakers’ approval last week and awaits Gov. Angus King’s promised signature.
The league’s action came a day after another anti-gay rights group, Concerned Maine Families, threatened to do the same thing. CMF gave the Legislature and King a week to amend or veto the bill.
Asked about his group’s independent approach to stopping the law, civic league Executive Director Michael Heath said, “We agree on the issue, period.”
Concerned Maine Families leader Carolyn Cosby welcomed the Civic League’s action, but said her group believes it would be premature to move ahead with a challenge.
Cosby said no decision has been made on whether her group will assist the Civic League in gathering signatures.
Heath’s filing triggers a process requiring the law’s opponents to gather 51,131 voters’ signatures by 90 days after the legislative session ends. If the signatures are certified, a referendum on the bill must be scheduled.
Cosby said she believes there is still time for King to change his mind on signing the bill and send it back to the Legislature. Cosby wants lawmakers to send the gay rights bill to voters.
“He’s putting tremendous political capital on the line,” said Cosby.
Heath said his group decided to challenge the bill head-on.
“We are reaching out to anybody and everybody who is willing to help with this effort. The people have risen up before and disagreed with their Legislature. We believe they will do so again on gay rights,” Heath said.
The bill being challenged would prohibit discrimination against gays in housing, credit, public accommodations and employment.
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