This election, four states will vote on gay marriage. In Maine, Maryland, and Washington, voters will decide whether to join the District of Columbia and the six states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Minnesotans face the issue from a different angle, voting on an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution which would define marriage in the state as a union exclusively between one man and one woman.
In Maine, the issue of gay marriage has some recent history that may effect the outcome of this November’s vote. In 2009 former governor of Maine John Baldacci signed a bill that protected religious freedoms while supporting marriage equality. That November, opponents voted to overturn the bill and successfully did so with a people’s veto. But after years of campaigning, supporters of marriage equality have brought the issue back to the table – the first time the issue of gay marriage has been raised by supporters and not by opponents.
What Mainers will be voting on is this question: Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? While most polls currently show 57% in favor, 36% opposed, and 7% undecided, the opposition says these polls are likely inaccurate due to supporters’ framing of the issue.
Mainers against same-sex marriage claim that undecided voters are hesitant to voice their opposition to because the issue has been presented as one of fairness and equality rather than the principles of marriage. Cochairman of Protect Marriage Maine Carroll Conley says that “an undecided vote is a vote for traditional marriage.”
Supporters of marriage equality have been making persistent efforts to get Mainers to answer this question of same-sex marriage with a resounding “yes”. Mainers United for Marriage has been conducting extensive grassroots efforts, mainly relying on face-to-face communication with potential proponents of the issue. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given $125,000 to the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine and has made similar contribuitions in Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota.
All things considered, Maine is looking more likely than not to legalize same-sex marriage. With a younger and more socially-accepting population turning out on election day this year, the opposition is going to have more difficulty getting voters on their side than in 2009. And with a President who has come out in favor of marriage equality in office, those who formerly did not want to vote “yes” on the issue may now feel more comfortable doing so.
For more on the issue of marriage equality, read this boston.com article and this Kennebec Journal article on a recent ad in Maine that tells the story of a couple in Vermont (a state in which same-sex marriage is legal), sued for refusing to host a lesbian couple’s wedding reception at their inn.