Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Maine voters wipe out gay marriage law

[Updated 7 Nov 1:00 p.m.] PORTLAND, Maine -- Gays lost marriage in Maine on Nov. 3. A "people's veto" at the ballot box wiped out the law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. It had not taken effect, pending the outcome of the vote.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, voters took marriage away from gays by a margin of 52.82 percent to 47.18 percent. The vote total was 299,808 to 267,785.

It was the 31st time same-sex marriage has lost at the ballot box in a U.S. state. It has never won.

"Tonight hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality but in the end, it wasn't enough," said NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality Campaign Manager Jesse Connolly (above). "I am proud of the thousands of Mainers who knocked on doors, made phone calls and talked to their family, friends and neighbors about the basic premise of treating all Maine families equally. And I'm proud of this campaign because the stories we told and the images we shared were of real Mainers -- parents who stood up for their children, and couples who simply wanted to marry the person they love."

"We're in this for the long haul," he said. "For next week and next month and next year -- until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for."
The very well-run NO on 1 campaign studied and learned from the failed Proposition 8 campaign last year in California. No on 8 didn't use gay people in its television ads; NO on 1 did. No on 8 took too long to respond to the opposition's scary TV ads; NO on 1 responded immediately each time.

About the only thing NO on 1 could have tried that it didn't was to run alarmist, negative ads itself. Some observers thought NO on 1 should have tried that, but there was no loud or sustained effort to change the campaign's decision in that regard. The campaign believed that calling its opponents "bigots" would alienate some of Maine's libertarian-leaning voters who opposed vetoing same-sex marriage based on general political philosophy more than any strong pro-gay sentiment.

"We are fools to have spent all this money and time and not have defined the opponents," said Steve Hildebrand, who was Barack Obama's deputy national campaign director and advises Obama on gay issues.

"It's not enough to answer their charges," Hildebrand said Nov. 6. "We need to hit them back and not let up on it until voters don't buy their lies anymore. (The NO on 1 and No on 8 campaigns were) malpractice in my opinion."

NO on 1's TV ads stuck to a theme of equality for all Maine families.

The opposition repeated over and over that legalizing same-sex marriage would provoke Maine schools to inculcate children with homosexual propaganda. The anti-same-sex-marriage campaign also ran an ad arguing that Maine's domestic-partnership law, which does not bestow all state-level rights and obligations of marriage, provides same-sex couples with enough equality.

During the campaign, Connolly dismissed the opposition's messaging as unbelievable.

"These are the same old doomsday tactics that opponents of equality have been using not just in Maine, but in every state from California to Iowa to New York," he said in September. "They want to change the subject, to talk about anything else. But Question 1 is only about fairness and equality for Maine families. We believe Maine people will see through this cynical strategy."
Some apparently did. Gay marriage was a winner in the cities of Portland (74%), South Portland (64%) and Bangor (54%), and in places such as Kennebunkport (61%) and Bar Harbor (71%). It lost in the cities of Lewiston (41%) and Augusta (47%).

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force expressed deep disappointment over the outcome.

"This heartbreaking defeat in Maine unfortunately shows that lies and fear can still win at the ballot box," said Executive Director Rea Carey. "Yet despite this setback, the tide clearly is turning nationwide in favor of marriage equality. We are confident that Maine will again join the growing number of states that extend the essential security and legal protections of marriage to all loving, committed couples. All across the nation, same-sex couples and their families are sharing their stories and their lives with others in a conversation that is transforming our country. That doesn't end today. If anything, it inspires and compels us to press forward. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of volunteers and campaign workers who fought their hardest for equality in Maine, to the NO on 1 campaign and EqualityMaine for their enduring leadership, and to the voters who cast their ballots for fairness rather than fear-mongering."

Some 8,000 people volunteered on the NO on 1 campaign, its officials said.
Unlike in California, where voters amended the state constitution to re-ban same-sex marriage, Maine voters merely struck down a law that had been passed. A new same-sex marriage bill could be introduced in the Maine Legislature, passed, and signed into law by the governor, starting the process all over again.

Indeed, Maine's GLBT anti-discrimination law went that very route. It was passed twice only to be vetoed by voters. Then, the third time it passed, they upheld it.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and Vermont, and becomes legal in New Hampshire in January. In addition, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., are thought to be on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Internationally, same-sex marriage is legal in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, South Africa and Sweden. (Photos by Andrés Duque)
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