Gay Marriage Repealed in Maine

Published on
by
The Bangor Daily News

Gay Marriage Repealed in Maine

Yes on 1 claims victory, repeal opponents 'will regroup'

by
Kevin Miller and Judy Harrison

A lesbian couple attends a rally in defense of same-sex marriage. Maine voters have rejected a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, in a major setback to gay rights advocates hoping the northeastern US state would become the first in the country where voters directly approve gay marriage. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Max Whittaker)

PORTLAND, Maine - Voters on Tuesday repealed the state's same sex
marriage law after an emotionally charged campaign that drew large
numbers to the polls and focused national attention on Maine.

With 87 percent of precincts reporting, the campaign to overturn
Maine's same-sex marriage law won with 53 percent of the vote vs. 47
percent opposed to Question 1, according to unofficial results compiled
by the Bangor Daily News.

Gay-marriage opponents claimed victory shortly after 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

"Question
1 has passed," Frank Schubert, campaign manager of Stand for Marriage
Maine, announced in Portland. "It has all come together tonight and the
institution of marriage has been preserved."

About 40 people who worked on the Yes on 1 campaign cheered as they
heard the announcement by computer hookup at Jeff's Catering in Brewer.

"We went up against tremendous odds," Marc Mutty, public affairs
director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland who has been on
loan to the campaign, said from Portland. "We all know we were the
little guy going up against the big guy, but we prevailed. We prevailed
because the people of Maine - the silent majority - the folks back home
spoke with their votes.

"What they had to say," Mutty continued, "is marriage matters because
it's between a man and a woman. [This campaign] has never been about
hating gays, but about preserving marriage and only about preserving
marriage, and that's what we did tonight."

The defenders of Maine's gay marriage law - which passed the
Legislature in the spring but was never allowed to take effect -
acknowledged being behind, but held out hope for a bump as the final
votes and absentee ballots were counted.

In a defiant speech to several hundred lingering supporters, No on 1
campaign manager Jesse Connolly pledged that his side "will not quit
until we know where every single one of these votes lives."

"We're not short-timers; we are here for the long haul," Connolly told
the crowd, some of whom wiped away tears as he spoke. "Whether it's
just all night and into the morning, or next week or next month or next
year, we will be here. We'll be fighting, we'll be working. We will
regroup."

The Yes on 1 campaign, led by the group Stand for Marriage Maine, built
its lead by winning votes in rural Maine as well as in some larger
towns such as the Roman Catholic and Franco-American stronghold of
Lewiston.

In contrast, the effort to defend Maine's gay marriage law won strong
support in places such as Portland, where 73 percent voted against
Question 1, and majority support in Bangor.

Throughout the campaign leading up to Tuesday's closely watched
election, both sides had said that turnout would be key. State election
officials estimated earlier Tuesday that turnout likely would top 50
percent.

But while gay marriage supporters hoped the high voter interest would
provide a boost, it was not enough to make Maine the first state in the
nation where gay marriage won at the polls rather than in the
legislature or courts.

Despite the outcome, Mary Bonauto, a No on 1 executive board member and
attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, said she was
never more proud to live in Maine and raise a family with her long-term
partner. She was especially proud of the attention the No on 1 campaign
brought to the values shared by all families, regardless of sexual
orientation.

"I look around at the 8,000 volunteers, and the vast majority are not
gay people," Bonauto said. "So that gives me hope that, regardless of
the outcome, that this discussion has changed the state."

At the No on 1 election-watch party, what began as an exuberant crowd
of more than 1,000 began to steadily dwindle as the Yes campaign's lead
held steady. By 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, a few hundred die-hard gay
marriage supporters still remained in the ballroom as Connolly spoke,
but the disappointment was palpable.

With relatively few high-profile elections around the country, the
national media spotlight is on Maine. Had Question 1 been defeated,
Maine would have become the first state in the nation where same-sex
marriage was legalized at the ballot box.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, after witnessing activity at several
polling stations and hearing from clerks around the state, said he
believed at least 50 percent of voters may have cast ballots in the
off-year election dominated by the gay marriage issue.

"What I have seen around the state has been steady to very busy turnout all day," Dunlap said.

The lead-up to Tuesday's historic election began back in April when
more than 3,000 people crammed into the Augusta Civic Center for a
public hearing on the bill.

Lawmakers sat through more than 10 hours of impassioned, sometimes
tearful testimony from longtime gay and lesbian partners as well as
children of same-sex couples. The bill's opponents were equally
passionate, often citing religious objections to redefining marriage
from the traditional one-man, one-woman union.

Several weeks later, both chambers of the Legislature signed off on the
bill, LD 1020, and sent it with some trepidation to Gov. John Baldacci,
who had been on record previously as favoring civil unions and domestic
partnerships over same-sex marriages.

But Baldacci immediately signed the bill, making Maine the fifth state
in the nation to grant gay and lesbian couples marriage rights.

"When history shines a spotlight on you, you have an opportunity to
advance the cause or to let the cause slip backwards. I chose to move
things forward," Baldacci said recently.

Even before Baldacci had put his pen to the bill, however, opponents
announced the petition drive to gather enough signatures to trigger a
"people's veto" referendum. They easily surpassed the 55,000-plus
required signatures.

In the months since, the two campaigns have spent more than $6.5
million on the campaigns, with money flowing into their coffers from
organizations and individuals from outside of Maine.

Although the campaign is over, the Rev. Bob Emrich of Palmyra said that the work of traditional marriage supporters was not.

"This doesn't mean it's the end of our work," he said. "We must begin
building bridges and we may have to mend fences. People on the other
side were doing what they believed in, too.

"God has given us this victory," Emrich continued, "and it is very
important for us to recognize that he is the one who put the energy
into this campaign. So let's not be so arrogant to forget this. It's
very appropriate to pause for a moment of prayer."

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