SSM and domestic partnerships in Maine
2009: Proposition 1: A sucessful
to prevent marriage equality
A future referendum:
The StandforMarriage Maine Coalition, a coalition
of religious and social conservatives, organized a petition to
force a public referendum on same-sex marriage (SSM). Their goal is to "stand
against" SSM while standing for opposite-sex marriage.
In Maine, a petition launch only requires 55,000 signatures
to exercise a "citizen's veto." This suspends the SSM law until a referendum can be
Since that number represents only about 5% of the adult population of the state, there
was little difficulty finding sufficient support. 1
Mark Mutty from the Stand for
Marriage Maine coalition said that it only took four weeks to
gather the more than 55,000 signatures necessary to put gay marriage to a vote.
The coalition filed over 100,000 signatures. Unfortunately, many
of them were obtained via the Internet from people outside of Maine. Because
these had to be separated from the Maine signatures, approval of the referendum
took longer than usual. 6
The petition votes were certified as valid. On 2009-SEP-03,
Governor John Baldacci signed a formal proclamation to authorize a referendum on
2009-NOV-03, election day. The SSM marriage law
was automatically placed on hold, pending the outcome of the vote.
If over 50% of voters reject the referendum, the hold will be lifted, and same-sex
couples will be able to marry once more. Otherwise, the ban on SSM will once
again be enforced.
Support for SSM by the public:
A poll of 400 adult residents of Maine was conducted by Pan
Atlantic SMS Group of Portland ME between 2009-APR-06 and APR-14, just before the
public hearing. Results were:
49.5% oppose the bill to legalize SSM
47.3 support the bill
3.3% are undecided or refused to answer.
Unfortunately, with such a small sample size, the margin of
error is ~+mn~5 percentage points. So the results are a statistical dead heat.
Results by party were as expected:
71.6% of Republicans were opposed.
38.8% of Democrats were opposed
44.2% of Independents were opposed.
Pan Atlantic also asked residents about various options
for loving, committed same-sex couples.
When asked: "Which of the following comes closest to your
position on the issue of marriage for gay and lesbian couples and civil unions?"
39.3 percent of respondents support "full marriage rights," an
increase of 6.0% since a similar poll in 2004-MAR -- a little over 1 percentage
point per year.
34.5 percent support civil unions or partnerships, but not
marriage, a loss of 1.0% since 2004.
23 percent oppose "any legal recognition for gay and lesbian
couples." -- that is, they preferred that the government treat same-sex
couples as roommates, with their children considered illegitimate,
and without any guarantee that they would be able to visit their spouse in
hospital, etc. This is a
loss of 8.8% since 2004 -- almost 2 percentage points a year.
3% said they don't know or refused to answer. 2
At referendum time, we may see a replication of the experience
seen in California during 2008, where SSM was
first legalized by the courts and then stripped away from couples by a very slim
majority -- about 2% -- of the public in a referendum.
It may seem strange that 50.01% of the voting public can strip
away a fundamental human right -- the opportunity to marry the person that one
loves -- from an identified group of fellow citizens. But that is how the
political system is set up.
Since support for SSM is
increasing gradually across the nation, it would probably take only a few
years waiting before the majority of the public would support SSM, and the repeal
of the 2009 referendum would be possible.
What is at stake?
If Prop 1 is defeated, it would be an immense loss in
credibility for religious and social conservatives. It would be the
first time that a majority of the American public supported marriage equality via a referendum.
SSM has been legalized in the other five states through legislative
action or judicial decree.
Greta Christina wrote on her blog, using somewhat inflammatory language:
"In the U.S., same-sex marriage has never, ever won at the ballot box.
Ever. The Right has always been able to use smears and scare tactics and even
flat-out lies to keep voters from supporting same-sex marriage? tactics that
are (marginally) less effective on judges and legislators than they are on
"If we win this one, it will be a huge precedent. The far right won't be
able to say that the courts and legislatures are shoving same-sex marriage
down the throats of the people. The people will have spoken. And they will
have spoken for fairness and equality."
If Prop 1 is passed, then the pro-equality forces would suffer a
major loss in momentum. Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization
for Marriage said:
"Gay marriage advocates have tried to craft a story line that the 'culture
has shifted' on gay marriage. A victory in Maine will prove they are wrong.
It will also make it clear to the Supreme Court that the majority of Americans
care about fighting for our marriage tradition." 6
She correctly identifies the eventual goal, which
is an inevitable appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court at some time in the future.
When it reaches the court, if there is sufficient
public support for SSM and a sufficient number of states that have legalized
SSM, the court might issue a ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the
entire U.S. It did this during 1967 over interracial marriages. Interestingly,
it was not until 1991 that a majority of adults in the U.S. were in favor of
allowing interracial couples to marry.
Lead up to the referendum on election day, 2009-NOV-03:
The National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family,
and Schubert Flint Public Affairs -- the public relations firm that successfully promoted Proposition 8 in
California in late 2008 -- have mounted a major campaign to restrict marriage in
Maine to opposite-sex couples. The Human Rights Campaign believes that religious and
social conservatives have funded this campaign with $600,000. There are rumors
that the Roman Catholic Church has promised to donate $2 million; that is
probably unrealistic because of the fragile shape of the church's finances. 5
With the public opinion almost evenly split on marriage equality, the
proposition may well be decided on who has the more effective and better
financed ad campaign. Unfortunately, negative fear based TV ads tend to be more
effective than ads with positive messages about love and equality. So those
supporting Prop 1 have a strong advantage. It will probably all come down to
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Valerie Richardson, "Gay-marriage bills corner 2 governors," The
Washington Times, 2009-MAY-04, at:
Matt Wickenheiser, "Same-sex marriage: Poll finds even split," Portland
Press Herald, 2009-APR-22, at:
"Maine gay marriage foes get enough signatures to block law, put it to
statewide vote." Breaking News, 2009-JUL-08, at:
Greta Christina, "Marriage Equality: Why it Is Critical You Passionately
Care About Maine," Greta Christina's Blog, 2009-AUG-25, at:
Mahayana, "From California to Maine ... and back again," AmplifyYourVoice,
"National Organization for Marriage applauds Maine victory," NOM,
Joe Sudbay, "Anti-marriage campaign in Maine hiring actors for its ads,"
AmericaBlog, 2009-AUG-28, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2009-JAN-14
Latest update: 2009-SEP-23
Author: B.A. Robinson