Gay marriage advocates, capitalizing on the New York same-sex marriage law, on Thursday launched a campaign backed by a Methodist pastor seeking a referendum to bring gay rights back to Maine.

EqualityMaine and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) announced the launch of what they called a citizen’s initiative to bring marriage equality back to the voters of Maine in 2012, the same-sex marriage advocacy groups said at a press conference in Lewistown Thursday.

Preparations for the referendum had been going on for 18 months seeking support for “marriage equality,” they said.

Pastor Michael Gray from the Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church filed paperwork with election authorities to start the process of gathering over 57,000 signatures to put the issue on the November 2012 ballot.

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