The Maine Vote for Marriage

The Maine Vote for Marriage

By Maggie Gallagher - November 5, 2009

On Election Day this past Tuesday, the people of Maine voted to repeal gay marriage, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Gay-marriage advocates are bitterly disappointed. They spent three years building an organization to push gay marriage in Maine. They had every major newspaper and most other media on their side, as well as the political establishment -- the governor, the attorney general, the head of the schools. They were awash in money, out-fundraising pro-marriage advocates by more than 50 percent. (Full disclosure: The National Organization for Marriage contributed $1.8 million to the Yes on One campaign -- or more than half the campaign budget.)

Gay-marriage advocates in Maine had the benefit of learning from California. They ran the kind of campaign critics claim would have won Proposition 8: No on One ads featured happy gay families, and rebuttal ads to Yes on One claims came quickly. There are not very many Mormons in Maine, or black people, either, so they cannot blame this loss on either minority group. Maine is a deep blue state, socially liberal and relatively secular, and close to Massachusetts, where people have presumably learned "the sky doesn't fall" after gay marriage becomes law.

And yet people in Maine in a free and fair election decisively rejected gay marriage by an even bigger margin than in California.

Here's the first thing this victory means: The $4 million spent to pass gay marriage in Maine was wasted. Even Americans in liberal states do not believe that two guys pledged to a gay union are a marriage. Politicians can pass a bill saying a chicken is a duck and that doesn't make it true. Truth matters.

Americans have a great deal of goodwill toward gay people as friends, neighbors and fellow citizens. Most of us do not want to hurt them or hate them or interfere with anyone's legitimate rights to live as they choose. But we do not believe gay marriage is a civil right; we think it is a civil wrong. And we do not appreciate the increasingly intense efforts to punish people who disagree with gay marriage as if we were racists, bigots, discriminators or haters.

Case in point: Don Mendell, a school guidance counselor at Nokomis Regional High School in Maine, now faces ethics complaints for his decision to appear in a TV ad for the Yes on One campaign in the closing days of the contest. If substantiated, the ethics complaint could lead the government to yank his license as a social worker and, therefore, threaten his livelihood. What kind of movement spurs people to act like this? Meanwhile, a teacher of the year who campaigned for gay marriage faces no such threat to her livelihood. Is gay marriage really about love and tolerance for all?

The people of Maine are certainly entitled to wonder.

Over in New York, the collapse of Dede Scozzafava is another big story. Scozzafava was handpicked to become the first openly pro-gay marriage Republican in a district where the vast majority of Republicans and independents (and even a big chunk of Democrats) oppose gay marriage.

A National Organization of marriage poll of likely voters in New York's 23rd Congressional District revealed that fully 50 percent of her opponent's supporters said that Scozzafava's vote for gay marriage was a factor in their decision not to support her.

NOM spent more than $100,000 sending 160,000 pieces of mail to voters who oppose gay marriage, and it also made more than 250,000 automated and live calls to make sure these voters knew that Scozzafava voted for gay marriage. Executive director Brian Brown has his own take on what happened in the 23rd district:

"This should be a wake-up call to GOP politicians who think they can play clever insider games and cut special deals on the marriage issue: It's not going to work. The voters are not on your side."


Maggie Gallagher is president of the National Organization for Marriage and has been a syndicated columnist for 14 years.

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