The promise of Maine was a strong one, but in the end it wasn't strong enough to overcome the fear and lies championed by the opposition. With 93% of precincts reporting, marriage equality was defeated for the 31st time at the ballot box 52.77% to 47.23%, roughly the same numbers as Prop 8.
"Tonight, hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality, but in the end, it wasn't enough," said Jesse Connolly, NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality's campaign manager in a concession statement.
"I am proud of the thousands of Mainers who knocked on doors, made phone calls and talked to their family, friends and neighbors about the basic premise of treating all Maine families equally.
"And I'm proud of this campaign because the stories we told and the images we shared were of real Mainers -- parents who stood up for their children, and couples who simply wanted to marry the person they love.
"We're in this for the long haul. For next week, and next month, and next year-- until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for."
Those images of real Mainers was the hallmark of the NO on 1 campaign. Unlike the opposition who either used out-of-staters or actors in their ads, the NO on 1 campaign used real residents with real stories to tell, explaining why marriage equality was so important to them.
At times it was questioned whether or not the campaign should bite back equally hard against the opposition's lies and attack ads, but Jesse Connolly and staff studied hard the failure of California's No on Prop 8 campaign which didn't use gay people in their ads and took forever to respond to the opposition's claims. Jesse and team adjusted that rule book and adapted it to Maine.
The Pine Tree State proudly boasts a strong libertarian population and attack ads don't sit well with them. The strategy was to rise above the fray of lies such as "homosexual marriage in schools" and stick to the "All Families Are Equal" and the "Live and Let Live" mantra Maine holds dear. They responded fast and quick, had a very impressive field campaign, creatively utilized the internet and the netroots (which I am proud to say I was a part of) and had over 8,000 volunteers.
But in the end, it wasn't enough.
Unlike California, whose voters amended the state constitution banning same-sex marriage, Mainers only threw out a law passed by its legislature and signed by the governor granting marriage rights to Pine Tree State's LGBT population.
Marriage equality in Maine will probably take a similar path that Maine's anti-discrimination bill took - it was passed three times by the state's legislature, was defeated twice by a people's veto whose campaigns were rain by fierce anti-LGBT forces, and it wasn't until the third time voters upheld the law. The video below gives a moving history of LGBT rights in Maine, including the defeats and wonderful victories.
A new marriage equality bill will likely appear before Maine's legislature and pro-marriage equality governor, John Baldacci, soon.
This is just a chapter in a long narrative, not just for Maine, but for the nation. In one year's time since the historical passage of Prop 8, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont all passed marriage equality either through the court or in the legislature. Currently, Washington D.C., New York and New Jersey are on the cusp of passing marriage equality legislation.
The tide is turning. One defeat does not mark the end. We dust ourselves off, learn from what worked and what didn't, and charge ahead.
Images by Rex Wockner.
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