Instead, they went home at midnight, dejected and near tears after a failed
bid to make Maine the first state to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot
“I’m ready to start crying,” said Burnett, a 58-year-old massage
therapist, walking out of the ballroom with Swanson at her side. “I
don’t understand what the fear is, why people are so afraid of this change.
With 87 per cent of precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 per cent of
the vote in a referendum that asked Maine voters whether they wanted to
repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage that had passed the Legislature and
was signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.
“The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the
nation,” said Frank Schubert, the chief organizer for Stand for
Marriage Maine, which lobbied for the repeal.
For the gay rights movement, which has gained a foothold in New England, it
was a stinging defeat. Gay marriage has now lost in every state – 31 in all
– in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped
to buck that trend in Maine, framing same-sex marriage as a matter of
equality for all families in a campaign that used 8,000 volunteers to get
out the message.
Five states have legalized gay marriage – Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New
Hampshire and Connecticut – but all did so through legislation or court
rulings, not by popular vote.
Portland resident Sarah Holman said she was torn, but decided – despite her
conservative upbringing – to vote in favor of letting gays marry.
“They love and they have the right to love. And we can’t tell somebody
how to love,” said Holman, 26.
While the gay marriage opponents claimed victory, Jesse Connolly, campaign
manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, held off conceding until early
Wednesday, when he issued a statement vowing to continue to press the issue.
The fight for marriage equality will continue, he told supporters at the
Holiday Inn ballroom, where a buffet table included a three-tiered wedding
cake – with two grooms standing side by side, two brides standing side by
side and the inscription: “We all do!”
“We’re not short-timers. We’re here for the long haul and whether it’s
just all night and into the morning, or it’s next week or next month or next
year. We will be here. We’ll be here fighting. We’ll be working. We will
For Burnett and Swanson, the July 10 wedding date, and a reception cruise on
Casco Bay, is off.
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