Maine to Vote on LGBT Marriage
Maine will take another shot at marriage equality this election day as voters consider a ballot question on whether to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot. The state legislature previously passed a law allowing LGBT marriage in 2009, but opponents promptly got the law wiped out through a ballot referendum, or “people’s veto.” Now the people have a chance to change their minds.
Undaunted by the back-and-forth of victory and defeat, LGBT advocates like their chances for the upcoming referendum. “This is a proactive campaign in which we decided we wanted to go to the people to ask for approval of marriage equality,” says Lee Swislow, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, or GLAD, a legal rights organization based in New England. GLAD has been one of the leading proponents working to bring marriage equality to the state. “In Maine, the only way is through the ballot box, given the people’s veto,” Swislow says.
LGBT marriage has come up on ballot questions in states 32 times, and been rejected 32 times. Advocates are hoping Maine will be the first to say yes. The 2009 rejection of the marriage law came by a 53 to 47 percent vote, so organizers need a three to four point swing to claim a win for civil rights this fall. Maryland, Minnesota and Washington residents will also be voting on the issue in their own states.
Supporters of marriage equality originally proposed that the ballot question read, “Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?” but it was simplified to a short and sweet, “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?”
Anti-Gay All the Way
A major revelation that has come from the fight for marriage in Maine is that donors to anti-gay political causes will not be allowed to hide behind anonymity. By state law, any group that raises more than $5,000 for an effort to influence elections must reveal the names of its contributors. In 2009, the National Organization for Marriage weighed in on the referendum to the tune of $1.9 million, yet argued that they shouldn’t have to name names because they were worried that bullies would harass their donors.
Their specious claim has been rejected by courts every step of the way, including the Supreme Court‘s refusal to hear their appeal, but has nevertheless been effective in that they haven’t to date revealed their donors. Maine officials say they have still not decided how much information NOM needs to make public.
As in other states, the push against LGBT marriage was spearheaded by anti-gay advocate Frank Schubert, who was recently profiled in the New York Times. Schubert is on retainer for NOM. The public relations professional advances the incoherent argument that he supports the rights of gays and lesbians, while leading state-by-state campaigns to deny them those rights.
NOM has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the meantime, the battle in Maine continues up until November 6, and perhaps beyond. “Once again the National Organization for Marriage is the major contributor of funds to the anti-marriage campaign,” Swislow says. “They have not disclosed any donors yet. We’ll see how this plays out the second time around.”