November 05, 2009

Time Magazine Looks Ahead at the Aftermath of the Maine Vote


Mainers' 53-47 vote to reject gay marriage does more than simply slap down a law that just six months ago had made Maine the U.S.'s second state to permit same-sex couples to wed. With voters thronging to the polls, the closely watched — and ultimately not very close — vote extended the winning streak of gay-marriage opponents nationwide, who have now prevailed in more than 30 straight state elections over whether to allow gays to marry. Just like Californians one year ago, Maine voters insisted on having their say on an issue that simply will not go away.

But Maine's vote, much like all of the states before it, including California's vote on Prop 8 a year ago, will do little to slow the fight over gay marriage. Not in Maine, where Tuesday's vote was only the equivalent of a veto and can be easily reversed by lawmakers when they next meet, and not in the rest of country, where the issue continues to roil courthouses and statehouses alike. "Ultimately, this is going to have to have a national resolution," says same-sex-marriage activist Mary Bonauto, one of the nation's top lawyers involved in the campaign to legalize gay marriage. "It's about aligning promises found in the Constitution with America's laws." A leader in Maine's campaign to uphold gay marriage, Bonauto is best known for arguing the same-sex case that led the Massachusetts Supreme Court to strike down prohibitions against gay marriage in a hugely influential 2003 decision that paved the way for that state to become the first to permit gay marriage in 2004.

Supporters were left early Wednesday morning looking for silver linings. Eight thousand volunteers manned the campaign to keep same-sex marriage, says Bonauto, and most of those people were not gay. "One way or another, after this vote, the people of Maine are not going to allow gay and lesbian people to remain strangers to the law," she says. "Gays and lesbians have met their non-gay neighbors, and they have introduced their families and their children." In Washington State, voters appeared to have ratified a law that was passed earlier this year giving its 6,000 registered domestic partners the same state rights as married couples. Cities as different as Chapel Hill, N.C., and Houston supported openly gay candidates for mayor, though the top vote getter in Houston will have to win a runoff before she takes office.

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