The image of a straight couple holding their young son – all three bright and blond – graces the home page of the Maine Marriage Initiative website, which is devoted to opposing a newly introduced gay marriage bill in the Maine Legislature.

“Families should be strengthened ... not redefined,” the text reads.

The newly-launched website urges visitors to contact their legislators, join their Facebook social group, and offers information about the gay marriage bill.

At a press conference last month, Democratic Senator Dennis S. Damon announced that he would introduce the gay marriage bill surrounded by members of several prominent gay groups – including Equality Maine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the Maine Women's Lobby – and gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry.

Maine lawmakers passed a bill in 2004 to extend domestic partnerships to both gay and straight couples, putting the state in the category of states that offer some legal protections to gay and lesbian couples.

The state's registry grants few guaranteed protections beyond estate planning, but gives gay couples a legal footing when asking for benefits from the private sector.

The website shies away from listing who's behind the group, but a Maine Politics posting points to James Dobson's Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family and the Portland Catholic Diocese.

The Maine Family Policy Council, which is backed by Focus on the Family, is organizing a Sunday rally to protest the gay marriage bill at the Augusta Civic Center. Tony Perkins, who heads the anti-gay Family Research Council in Washington, DC, is expected to speak at the event.

Also apposing the bill is the Republican Project, a grassroots group committed to returning the Republican Party “to its traditional core values and proven conservative governance policies.”

“The Maine state Republican Party platform is quite clear on this issue,” said Maine Republican Project CEO Dean Scontras, who lost his Republican primary bid for a Congressional seat last year. “So are the tenets of the Republican Project. Therefore, we will work at a grassroots level, through our electronic medium and within our membership, to work against Senator Damon's effort.”

Opponents in the Legislature have introduced conflicting bills aimed at derailing gay marriage in Maine.

Representative Josh Tardy, the state's House Republican Leader, has announced he will introduce legislation this session that would restrict marriage to a heterosexual union by altering the state's constitution. Thirty states have banned gay marriage in this way, including California, Arizona and Florida on November 4.

But Republican Rep. Les Fossel is attempting a different approach: He is sponsoring a bill that expands the state's domestic partner registry.

Fossel says Damon's gay marriage bill is too emotionally charged, saying he would prefer to find “a middle ground.”

“We don't need a hot, divisive debate with siege guns,” he said. “Democracy is all about finding a middle ground. This bill might not be perfect for everyone, but it is the only bill with a chance of succeeding without immediately triggering a referendum to repeal.”

Gay activists are pushing a six state strategy to win gay marriage for the entire New England region. Legislation to provide for gay marriage is being introduced this year in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island. Gay and lesbian couples can currently marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut.