Maine is the latest battleground for same-sex
marriage, with voters deciding next month whether to approve a measure
overturning their state Legislature's decision in May to legalize such
The campaign for the measure, known as Question 1, looks like a
rerun of last year's Proposition 8 in California, which struck down
same-sex marriage. TV ads for the measure are the work of the
Sacramento firm of Schubert Flint Public Affairs, which ran the
successful California campaign.
On the other side of the Maine campaign, same-sex marriage
supporters see the similar campaigns as a boon. They've learned from
the missteps of the campaign against Prop. 8 and are responding to ads
against same-sex marriage within 36 hours.
"In California, it took us two weeks to get a response ad up," said
Julia Rosen, online political director for Courage Campaign, a liberal
California online hub that supports same-sex marriage.
The No on 1 campaign's ads feature gay families from Maine. Critics
of California's anti-Prop. 8 campaign say its ads contained few gay
After spending several days helping organizers of the No on 1
campaign in Maine last week, Rosen was impressed with how the campaign
is learning from California's mistakes. But leaders of the campaign to
repeal Maine's law disagree.
"They may be responding faster, but I wouldn't say smarter," said
Jeff Flint, whose firm helped create the Yes on 1 ads. "Their campaign
still hasn't answered the fundamental question of this campaign.
There's a lot more at stake for society when you're restructuring
The campaign for the measure is a virtual carbon copy of the
California effort, which ended with 52 percent of voters in favor of
Prop. 8. If voters approve the Maine measure, the state's same-sex
marriage law, which has been suspended pending the outcome of the
election, would not take effect.
One TV ad supporting the measure features Robb and Robin Wirthlin, a
Massachusetts couple concerned that their 8-year-old son came home from
school talking about how boys can marry boys. A very similar TV ad,
with the same clip of the Wirthlins, appeared in last year's California
campaign. The main difference between the ads is that a different
teacher introduces the couple.
Yes on 1's first TV ad featured Scott FitzGibbon, a professor at
Boston College Law School, who said, "Homosexual marriage could be
taught in public schools whether their parents like it not." Nothing in
Maine's law compels public schools to teach same-sex marriage.
The Yes on Prop. 8 campaign in California ran a TV ad featuring
Pepperdine University Law Professor Richard Peterson asserting, much as
FitzGibbon does, that same-sex marriage would be "taught in the public
schools" and "churches could lose their tax exemption."
'Like it or not'
The "like it or not" allusion is familiar to Californians who
remember one of the most powerful TV spots for Prop. 8 last year. It
featured San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom telling an audience after the
state Supreme Court overturned California's 8-year-old, voter-approved
ban on same-sex marriage that "it's going to happen, whether you like
it or not."
When asked if the allusion to Newsom's line was intentional, Yes on
1's Flint said, "No comment" and laughed. "His (Newsom's) arrogant tone
of voice made that a very powerful ad" in California, Flint said.
Jesse Connolly, who is on leave from his job as chief of staff to
Maine's speaker of the House of Representatives to manage the No on 1
campaign, said his team studied the Prop. 8 effort closely.
"We figured (proponents of the repeal would) come with some of the same stuff, and we were ready to respond," he said.
Same-sex marriage proponents from California are getting involved in
Maine's campaign. Last weekend, they made 10,000 phone-bank calls to
Mainers, and over the next few weeks dozens of volunteers - and a few
paid organizers - are heading east to help.
"They will be there at the end of the campaign just to help
implement the locally produced campaign," said Marc Solomon, marriage
director for Equality California, where 11 field organizers have been
raising money to go to Maine.
Despite the similarities in the two state's campaigns on the issue,
Maine isn't California. The state's 1.3 million population is a
fraction of California's and is 95 percent white. There are no
evangelical Christian mega-churches the size of those in California
from which to draw same-sex marriage opponents and no major cities -
where many of Prop. 8's opponents were based.
Unlike California, Maine does not have a large number of Mormon churches, whose members mobilized heavily for Prop. 8.
Both sides in the Maine campaign say polls show the measure too close to call.
"A lot of this stuff about advertising may mean something to
political reporters and insiders," said Flint, "but to a lot of Mainers
dealing with this around their kitchen table, that doesn't matter."
Solomon, a force behind the same-sex marriage law in Massachusetts,
added: "With this issue, people want to see genuine stories about how
this affects their life."
Same-sex deja vu in Maine
say the campaign for a Maine measure to repeal legal same-sex marriage
in that state is virtually a carbon copy of the successful campaign for
Proposition 8 in California last year. Here are links to TV ads for
each of the campaigns:
Yes on Prop. 8: Ad that ran in California: links.sfgate.com/ZIIE
Yes on Question 1: Ad running in Maine: links.sfgate.com/ZIIF