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Maine Gay Marriage Law Defeated by Vote

By Minara El-Rahman on November 04, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Yesterday voters decided the fate of a law that would have allowed gay marriage in the state of Maine. In a close vote, the voters decided to overturn that law with 53% of the vote. The law was passed by the state legislature and signed by Maine Governor John Baldacci in May 2009.

Civil Rights History

This was a pivotal moment for the gay rights movement. Advocates of gay marriage were hoping that this would be the first time that an electorate would uphold a law that supported same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

It was also hoped that Maine would illustrate popular consensus within a state for gay marriage. Many critics of gay marriage have used California as an example of how voters do not agree with same-sex marriage. These critics will most likely use Maine as an example now too.

The states of Iowa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire have all legalized same-sex marriage. However, all have done so with either court rulings or legislation versus a popular vote. Meanwhile, there are 30 states who have banned gay marriage via ballot.

Most people in Maine wanted to keep the law a state issue. Both sides had emphasized that the law does not really impact the national scale in spite of the political implications I have outlined above.

Personal Stories And Implications

Governor Baldacci was initially against the law, but after hearing from citizens of Maine, he said it was "completely remarkable...unique and different than anything I have experienced in my history in this state." It was "really a baring of the soul" and "people in Maine...realized that we're not talking about people in California or Washington, we're talking about people here in Maine."

One such testimony in support of gay marriage is one by Philip Spooner who is a World War II veteran with a gay son.

His YouTube clip has amassed a total of 590,839 views. You can view it here:

So what does this mean for same sex couples in Main? It means that the concerns they faced before remain.

NPR recently detailed the concerns of two gay couples in Maine. The legal and financial implications of the recent election impacts their lives dramatically:

For both couples the absence of the legal and financial protections of marriage is a constant source of concern.

Faith and Janet carry around a stack of papers documenting their adoption rights and medical powers of attorney.

Stephen and Jim worry about getting old, about whether nursing homes would honor their wishes "to be together until the very end," and whether the property management business they have spent a lifetime building together would be hit by an inheritance tax, from which married couples are exempt, should one of them die.

The implications are emotional too: Faith wonders whether, despite being in a deeply committed relationship, marriage would take their relationship to "a whole other level that we've never had the chance to experience."

Faith will not get the chance to take her relationship to that whole other level now. Both couples will not be granted the legal privileges that would have come with marriage.

The New York Times reports: The outcome amounts to a heartbreaking defeat for the gay rights movement, particularly since it occurred in a northeastern New England state, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.

Gay marriage measures have lost in every state, 31 in all, in which it has been put to a popular vote.

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