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Setback in Maine: Voters repeal marriage equality
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Setback in Maine: Voters repeal marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

As Washington voters were approving Referendum 71 on Tuesday, voters in Maine were passing Question 1, which repealed that state's same-sex marriage law.

With almost all votes now counted, Question 1 has passed by a margin of 52.81% to 47.19%.

"Tonight, hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality, but in the end, it wasn't enough," said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality.

"We're in this for the long haul," Connolly continued. "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."

In contrast, PR man Frank Schubert, whose firm Schubert Flint Public Affairs also ran the Prop 8 campaign in California, told supporters "The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across this nation."

The result confirmed the most recent polling, which had showed the measure passing by a narrow margin. Most earlier polls taken in September showed Maine voters rejecting Question 1 and retaining the civil marriage law.

Maine's civil marriage bill was passed by its House of Representatives on May 5 this year. It passed the Maine Senate and was signed by Gov. John Baldacci the next day.

The bill defined marriage as "the legally recognized union of two people" rather than "the union of one man and one woman joined in traditional monogamous marriage," a definition put in place by the Legislature in 1997.

Baldacci, a Roman Catholic, had initially expressed reservations about supporting the bill, but in the end he signed it, saying, "times have changed."

The law would have gone into effect on September 14, but it was challenged by a petition drive organized by Stand For Marriage Maine. Under Maine's "people's veto" law, measures passed by the legislature may be put up for an up or down popular vote.

Maine would have been the sixth state in the country to allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa already allow same-sex marriage, and New Hampshire's new law will take effect in January.

The campaign was notable for heavy spending by both sides, fueled by substantial out-of-state contributions. The two campaigns combined spent more than $7 million, with marriage equality supporters outspending opponents. Both sides said the vote will have national implications that will influence future same-sex marriage battles in other states.

Stand For Marriage Maine was financed largely by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Roman Catholic Church, and Focus on the Family.

NOM provided 63% of the total raised by Stand For Marriage Maine - $1.6 million out of total cash contributions of $2,547,860.40. An additional $550,000, or 20% of the total cash, was provided by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, although more than half of that came from out-of-state dioceses. James Dobson's Focus on the Family contributed at least $100,000.

NOM was also behind a Washington State lawsuit demanding the right to ignore campaign finance restrictions and dump thousands of dollars of last-minute campaign contributions into the effort to reject Referendum 71. NOM's Washington suit was rejected by federal District Judge Ronald D. Leighton on October 27.

CIVIL RIGHTS GROUPS LEFT DISHEARTENED
LGBT groups deplored the Maine results, while promising to continue to fight for full equality.

Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer said, "Forcing any minority to endure a barrage of lies and insults, ending with a vote that denies them full citizenship, is cruel - it's not the government our founders envisioned."

"We are disappointed and disheartened by results in Maine, where we saw marriage equality eliminated for loving and committed couples," said Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "It's wrong to take basic rights and protections away from neighbors, friends and co-workers who just want the same opportunity to care for their loved ones and families. It's wrong, unfair and, frankly, un-American."

"We are in a difficult moment. This is a hard day," said Kate Kendell of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "But we can't lose hope or stop believing in the rightness of our cause."

Kendell, who was one of the leaders of Equality California fighting Prop 8 last year, added, "We have the privilege of living in the midst of our own civil rights movement. The cost of that privilege is the same cost it has been in every movement: our humanity and dignity is attacked and undermined and we stand tall, never give up, and never lose faith. Today is a test, and we must be the measure of it."

"[It] is important to see the bigger picture," said Jeff Krehely of the Center for American Progress. "In recent years, several states have adopted marriage equality laws, while many others have taken steps toward full equality by implementing civil unions and domestic partnerships. Most important, a clear majority of Americans - 76 % - support some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples."

"It is only a matter of time before all couples are recognized and valued, and marriage discrimination becomes a legal and social artifact," Krehely concluded.

Maine has a history of political eccentricity. Both its senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, are moderate Republicans. Both its House members, Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, are Democrats.

For over a century, Maine voted solidly Republican in presidential elections, but it went for Humphrey in 1968, Clinton in 1992 and 1996, Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and Obama in 2008.

Maine is 98% white and 37% Roman Catholic. Forty-five percent of Mainers are Protestant, almost all of them belonging to mainstream denominations. Seventeen percent are non-religious.

Washington, in contrast, is 88% white, 16% Roman Catholic, and 25% Evangelical Protestant. Twenty-five percent of Washington's people claim no religious affiliation, however.

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