About 20 Republican leaders have joined Republicans United for Marriage, a group working to legalize gay marriage in Maine.

Marriage equality supporters are returning the issue to the ballot box after voters in 2009 narrowly repealed a marriage law approved by lawmakers with a “people's veto,” known as Question 1. If approved, Maine would become the first state to legalize such unions with a popular vote.

State Rep. Stacey Fitts, a Republican from Pittsfield who voted against the gay marriage law in 2009, headlined the group's debut during a press conference held at the State House on Monday.

“I voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, but I changed my mind,” he said. “I know some gay people and I've talked with them and my family, and I've thought about it a lot. As a husband and a father, I've come to believe that two people who love each other should have the freedom to get married.”

“This is about the fundamental right to marry the person you love without the government getting in the way,” said Senator Meredith Strang, the lone GOP co-sponsor of the 2009 bill.

Rev. Bob Emrich, a leader with Protect Marriage Maine, the group working against passage of marriage equality, dismissed the group, saying, “There are no leaders in the group.”

“The Republican Party has recognized that marriage is between a man and a woman since 1856. These are liberal Republicans. I don't know why these people call themselves Republicans,” Emrich told the Morning Sentinel.

Republican support for gay nuptials is increasing. For example, New York's marriage equality law, which celebrates its first anniversary Tuesday, would not have passed the state Senate without GOP support.

According to a recent poll, 57 percent of Mainers support legalizing gay marriage, while 35 percent remain opposed.

(Related: Maine churches fundraise against gay marriage on Father's Day.)