Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Downer Down East

I felt like Bugs Bunny late last night — "A got a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad feeling about this," he'd say. Sure enough I awoke to find that Maine's same-sex marriage law had been overturned before it could start in a people's veto.

As reported in the Bangor and Portland papers, the count will end up being something like 53% to 47% for repeal. After clerking from before 6 a.m. until nearly 9 p.m. at a Boston poll yesterday, I headed to bed before midnight as the no on question 1 lead had shrunk from two points to next to nothing. I wasn't masochistic enough to hang on for the inevitable.

Regular readers here know the disdain I have for treating statewide issues as town meeting in ballot initiatives. That is particularly true for those who claim to be for democracy but who try to overturn laws passed by their representative democracy, their legislature. In a case where they intend to remove existing rights from a class to suit their prejudices and personal religious views, I have no respect or patience.

That written, it became plain early on that this was a national battle. The anti-gay types definitely wanted have another delay in the inevitable marriage equality crawl to civil rights, a la California's Prop 8. The pro-equality sorts were of a mind that Mainers talked and fought very long, very loudly, very widely and very hard to decide whether to pass the SSM law. It was Maine's business.

Of course, it ended up not being, or not being just Maine's business.

Donations of money on both sides came from out of the state and region. Support to keep the law apparently was largely from individuals, progressive sorts. For the repeal, one national anti-gay group was the almost exclusive funder. Yet amusingly enough, the repeal folk screamed foul when out-of-state donations to keep SSM began matching their out-of-state repeal funds.

Regardless, Maine has been around this bush before. It repealed mild gay-rights legal protections a couple of times before it kept them in another ballot. They surely will not be one of the two regressive kids on the New England playground (with arch-conservative governor led Rhode Island) for too much longer. But the anti-gay forces have won this go and likely delayed SSM in Maine by three years.

It's a shame about Maine, but we can be hopeful by history about Maine.

It doesn't even roil me the anti-gay forces will crow about this and make all manner of political prophesies. They claim victories where they have none. So when they actually do get a win, we know what to expect.

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