AUGUSTA, Maine --- If supporters of traditional marriage had their
druthers, conservative writer Maggie Gallagher says, they would have
picked South Carolina, and not Maine, to try and win on the issue of
"gay marriage" Nov. 3.
After all, Maine is one of the
country's most liberal, least religious states, and hasn't voted for a
Republican for president in more than 20 years. Add a nearly 2-to-1
fundraising deficit to that mix -- as well as a host of other obstacles
-- and opponents of "gay marriage" faced seemingly impossible odds in
trying to pass Question 1 and overturn Maine's recently passed law
But they did win Tuesday, and by an even
larger margin (53-47 percent) than in California (52-48 percent) one
year earlier. In doing so, they put a roadblock in the notion that "gay
marriage" in all 50 states is inevitable. The issue has now lost at the
ballot box in all 31 states where it has been put to a vote.
groups did pick up a win in Washington state when voters there approved
the state's "everything but marriage" same-sex domestic partnerships
law, but activists long ago said such laws were inadequate and that
"gay marriage" was the only just option. Their goal now is to legalize
"gay marriage" in that state.
"If they can't win in Maine, they
don't have a majority anywhere," Gallagher, president of the National
Organization for Marriage, which donated more than $1 million to the
Yes on 1 campaign, told Baptist Press.
"And it's not just
Maine. It's Maine and California and Wisconsin and Oregon and Michigan
and every other state," she added, referencing other locations where
"gay marriage" was defeated.
Question 1 passed despite a
higher-than-expected turnout, which may have been as high as 60 percent
and which pundits had presumed would hurt the Yes on 1 side.
Conventional wisdom also held that two anti-tax issues on the ballot
would help Question 1 by bringing out conservative voters. Yet both
anti-tax measures lost -- by margins of 74-25 and 60-40 percent -- and
Question 1 prevailed. A pro-medical marijuana initiative that likely
brought out liberal voters passed, 59-41 percent.
The No on 1
side had not only a fundraising advantage but an edge in volunteers,
too, with 8,000 people on the ground in a state with only 1.3 million
people. They had the support of the governor, legislative leaders and
newspaper editorial boards. They ran the campaign they wish they had
run in California, and they still lost.
So, how did Stand for
Marriage Maine, the primary organization promoting Question 1, win?
Those who were involved on the ground point to five primary reasons:
1. A winning message about the impact of legalizing "gay marriage"
the get-go, Stand for Marriage Maine insisted that if the state
redefined marriage, then public schools would have no option but to
talk about "gay marriage" as normative when the subject of families was
introduced. Five of their six TV commercials included warnings about
"gay marriage" and public schools, including an appearance by a
Massachusetts couple whose second-grade son was read a book about a
prince "marrying" a prince. The parents sued the school in federal
court seeking parental consent the next time such books would be
discussed, but lost.
"The campaign very much followed the
campaign in California," Brian Brown, executive director of the
National Organization for Marriage and an executive committee member of
Stand for Marriage Maine, told BP. "We followed the argument that
continues to be very successful, which is that there are very real and
profound consequences of same-sex marriage. That argument allows people
to vote what's already in their heart. Our television ads simply allow
people to see how it affects them."
Joey Marshall, pastor of
Living Stone Community Church (SBC) in Standish, Maine, said the
message had an impact. Referencing his daughter who is almost 2, he
said, "It frightens me to think about what she will be forced to
embrace through our government and the public school system."
attorney general, Democrat Janet Mills, released a statement saying
that the law would have "no impact on the curricula of Maine's public
schools," but Question 1 backers simply countered by noting she was not
an objective observer because she had repeatedly stated her support for
"gay marriage." They also turned the argument around and said there was
nothing in state law to prevent "gay marriage" from being taught.
for Marriage Maine's commercials also argued that if "gay marriage"
stood, lawsuits against those who disagreed with the law could follow.
2. A last-minute assist from the opposition
the final week of the campaign it was learned that Donald Mendell Jr.,
a high school counselor in Palmyra, Maine, was being investigated by
the state and in danger of losing his state social worker's license
because he had appeared in a Yes on 1 TV ad. Someone at another school
who opposed Question 1 had filed the complaint. The name of the school
was not mentioned in the ad, and Mendell appeared only after a fellow
teacher at his school had appeared in her own No on 1 ad.
Stand for Marriage Maine cut a radio ad about the controversy.
made a big difference," Scott Fish, communications director for Stand
for Marriage Maine, told BP. "For Anybody in Maine that required a
license from the state to earn a living ... it was a chilling message."
Said Gallagher, "I think it reinforced the prime message of the campaign."
3. The support of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
though Maine is the third least religious state in the nation according
to Gallup polling, Catholicism has an influence, with about a third of
residents claiming affiliation. The diocese gave around $200,000 to the
Yes on 1 campaign, took up collections for Yes on 1 in its churches,
and promoted Question 1 on its website and in sermons. Marc Mutty took
a leave of absence from his job as public affairs director of the
diocese to become chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine.
Emrich, a spokesperson for Stand for Marriage Maine and pastor of
Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church in Plymouth, Maine, said the Roman
Catholic Diocese "absolutely" made a difference.
"It took a coalition that included the Catholic Diocese and every Protestant and evangelical denomination ," Emrich said.
4. A TV ad aimed at moderates
in the campaign, Stand for Marriage Maine released a TV ad that may
have won over the votes of moderates and some liberals but also
frustrated a few conservatives nationally. The ad pointed to Maine's
Domestic Partnership registry -- which grants same-sex couples some of
the legal benefits of marriage -- and said, "Abandoning traditional
marriage entails real consequences, yet we want to be tolerant of gays.
Maine's Domestic Partnership laws provide substantial legal protection
for gay couples. Any problems remaining can be addressed without
dismantling traditional marriage. It's possible to support the civil
rights of all citizens and protect traditional marriage at the same
Officials with Stand for Marriage Maine felt the ad was
necessary to win in a liberal state during an election that could have
gone either way.
"When they learned that ... redefining marriage
was neither the best nor the only way to do that, that made a
difference," Fish said.
The coalition of "gay
marriage" opponents that came together this summer with the collection
of 100,000 signatures to qualify Question 1 only grew in strength as
time passed, Emrich said.
"God has honored His promise that if
His people will humble themselves and call to Him, He responds," Emrich
said. "The deciding factor in my mind, without question, is that the
people of God finally worked together, stood up and said, 'Wait a
minute, this crosses a line that we just cannot cross. This is a direct
affront to God Himself.'"
Brown said it is difficult to overstate the significance of Question 1's passage to the national debate.
had a lot riding on this, because they saw this as a way to change the
momentum coming out of Proposition 8," Brown said. "But with everything
going for them, they still lost. That is the importance of Maine."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Copyright (c) 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist