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Pride to be proud of

This year's Portland Pride festivities, which start in a matter of hours at the UU Church at 425 Congress Street, are taking place at a time when the GLBTQ+allied community has much to be proud of -- and much work ahead

"For me personally, this year's Pride holds special significance in the fact that Maine was the first state to pass a Marriage Equality bill through the legislature and have the Governor sign it," says Jill Barkley, a local activist. "While we have a lot of work to do to prepare for November, I think we also have much to celebrate. I hope I'll attend future Southern Maine Pride events with my legally wedded, until-death-do-us-part wife." 

To that end, the Maine Freedom To Marry Campaign this week hired Jesse Connolly to lead its official referendum campaign, to fight an attempt by marriage foes to ban gay marriage at the ballot later this year. From the press release:

Connolly is a lifelong Mainer who now lives in South Portland.  A respected professional in Maine politics, Connolly served as campaign manager for "Maine Won't Discriminate" in 2005.  In that successful campaign, the people of Maine voted by a wide margin to keep sexual orientation in the state's non-discrimination policy. He also managed Governor Baldacci's re-election campaign in 2006.  Most recently, Connolly has served as chief of staff to Rep. Hannah Pingree, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.  Connolly is taking an unpaid leave of absence from the Speaker's office in order to run this campaign.

Connolly said, "We enter this fight from a place of tremendous strength, with a lot of momentum.  Having been on the inside of the legislative process, I can tell you that the campaign to win marriage has thus far been well organized, heartfelt, and extremely professional.  We are assembling a first rate staff that includes professionals with deep expertise to keep this groundbreaking effort moving forward.  I am proud to pick up this mantle and continue to work with Mainers across the state who have brought us to this historic moment."

 Maine Freedom to Marry will be led by an executive committee that includes some of the best political minds in the state, including representatives from the many organizations that worked closely together on the legislative effort. 

That crack legislative team includes Betsey Smith of EqualityMaine, Shenna Bellows of the MCLU, Mary Bonauto of GLAD, and Pat Peard, a longtime gay-rights activist and attorney. On the other side, marriage opponents (led by the Roman Catholic diocese) have hired the same public relations firm that worked to pass the anti-marriage Proposition 8 in California last year.

So, this weekend, in addition to much dancing and celebration, expect lots of politicking. How better to galvanize the troops than with Kitty Van Dyke, Wynona Jugs, Mel O'Drama, and the gang?

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