November Election Recap
Question 1 passes by a slim margin, Maine residents support proposition, deny marriage equality
Maine voters repealed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry on, Tuesday, November 3, in a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent.
Last May, the Maine Legislature passed a bill for marriage equality and Governor John Baldacci (D-ME) signed the bill into law. However, it was never able to take effect because of a petition drive opposing the law, which eventually became Question 1 on the ballot this month.
High numbers came out to vote, and though Question 1 was passed by a relatively slim margin, only in three counties did the majority of voters vote "no" on one.
"I still can't really believe that over half of the voters in Maine decided not to let me have rights," Jennifer Corriveau '10, an openly gay student said.
"I think a lot of people at Colby view [same-sex marriage] as a political issue, but I view it as a human rights issue. And so it's really surprising that it's even being voted on in this country and that it's not something that people just see as a human rights issue," she said. Corriveau is part of the steering committee for the Bridge, the College's gay-straight alliance.
Justin Rouse '12 voted "no" on Question 1. "We have a separation of church and state for a reason and we have a 14th amendment for a reason and we have a governing document for a reason," he said.
"As our governing document, the Constitution should be taken in higher esteem than any religious doctrine and I feel that on Tuesday, we denied constitutional protection to a sector of society," he said.
Because Maine is in New England, a region which has had much success with gay-marriage legislation, and given the strong support for the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign, many across the nation looked to Maine with the hopes that it would be the first state to vote to accept gay-marriage at the polls. Instead, Maine joined the ranks of the 31 other states where voters blocked gay marriage through public referendum.
In a letter to marriage equality supporters, Jesse Connolly, NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign manager, wrote, "We're in this for the long haul. 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 Yes on 1 campaign, which opposed gay-marriage legislation, gained much support in the state. Particularly effective were its television ads, noted for using scare tactics. In perhaps its most famous ad of the campaign, a Massachusetts couple tells of their young son who was taught in school that a man can marry another man. Gay-marriage is legal in Massachusetts. In the ad, one Maine teacher implores "Vote Yes on Question 1 to prevent homosexual marriage from being taught in Maine schools."
The Morning Sentinel noted trends along religious and generational lines this Election Day.
The Roman Catholic diocese has consistently opposed legislating marriage equality. The church preached these beliefs at weekly mass throughout Maine, urging voters to hold steadfast to the sanctity of marriage.
Amanda Burgess '10 is a Maine resident, religious studies major and lifelong Catholic. She made it to the polls to vote "no" on one, and she said "it was really hard for me to see what the diocese was doing and all the money they were giving [to the Yes on 1 campaign]."
Burgess stopped attending mass in June because listening to priests use religion for a political agenda and one that would take away basic human rights, was too much to bear.
She was not alone. Several students who regularly attended Catholic mass on the Hill echoed her sentiments, saying they were turned off and disappointed by what they were hearing in church. Some students, like Burgess, stopped attending mass.
Laura Maloney '12 pointed to an organized movement within some religious communities as one of the reasons she believes Question 1 passed. The bishop, she said, stressed that accepting marriage equality would hurt families and children.
She also said that there was a sense that churches would be penalized if they did not speak out against gay marriage.
Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland Richard Malone posted a note on the church's website thanking those who voted "yes" last Tuesday, an action which he had urged his followers to take.
"I want to thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millennia by civilizations and religions around the world," he wrote.
The Colby Democrats (the Dems) supported same-sex marriage and worked with NO on 1 to canvass, phone bank and get community members to vote early.
Burgess, president of the Dems, said many of the club members have e-mailed her, quite upset with the results of the election.
However, "one of the things that I think has helped the Dems get through is that this is such a generational issue. This is going to be a long fight, but history's on our side," Burgess said.
Just take a look at the results from the University of Maine-Orono. Voting 81-19 percent in favor of marriage equality, the university's demographics indicate where the younger generation stands on the issue. This information comes from a blog on The New York Times website.
Baldacci responded to the vote, saying, "I think this is one in which you can change laws and you can pass laws, but it doesn't change hearts and minds. We have many miles to travel, but we know for certain the destination, which is equality for all of our people."
Though only a referendum ballot was on the table this year, the hotly debated questions drew more than the usual number of voters to the polls. According to The Morning Sentinel, "In 2007, the last year without a presidential election, Mainers voted on five referendums, including a proposed racetrack casino in Washington County. That year, fewer than 2,200 Waterville residents voted on the five referendum questions. This year, more than 5,000 voters weighed in on each question in Waterville."
"My fear is that people are going to disengage and be so frustrated with the outcome that they [don't push forward, fighting for marriage equality]. But change takes a really long time, and we need to keep that in mind. Even though it's frustrating we need to keep fighting the good fight," Burgess said.
"We're putting to vote people's lives to a point where I don't have the right to be with the person that I love because other people think it's not real or that it goes against something...but times change, people change, and it's frustrating to see that people aren't responding to the change that's happening around them," Corriveau said.