A sad lesbian couple
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The stars seemed aligned for supporters of gay marriage. They had Maine's governor, legislative leaders and major newspapers on their side, plus a huge edge in campaign funding. So losing a landmark referendum was a devastating blow, for activists in Maine and nationwide.
In an election that had been billed for weeks as too close to call, Maine's often unpredictable voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed. Gay marriage has now lost in all 31 states in which it has been put to a popular vote — a trend that the gay-rights movement had believed it could end in Maine.
"Today's heartbreaking defeat unfortunately shows that lies and fear can still win at the ballot box," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Was that how Obama won a year ago?
"The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation," declared Frank Schubert, chief organizer for the winning side.
Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative group that steered substantial funds to fight gay marriage in both California and Maine, was elated by Tuesday's result, saying it shows that "that even in a New England state, if the voters have a chance to have their say, they're going to protect and defend the commonsense definition of marriage."
At issue in the referendum was a law passed by Maine's Legislature last spring that would have allowed gays to wed. The law was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it.
Five other states have legalized gay marriage — starting with Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Iowa — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote. In contrast, constitutional amendments banning gay marriage have been approved in all 30 states where they have been on the ballot.
Brown said "out-of-touch legislators" are a principal reason same-sex marriage has taken hold in New England.
"What we're saying is give us a chance to take our message to the people and let the people decide," he said. He also suggested that the outcome in Maine will give pause to lawmakers in New York and New Jersey, where gay-marriage legislation is pending.