Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Set-Back and a Victory

By a narrow margin voters in Maine have repealed a state law that would have allowed same-sex marriage.

I resonate with Andrew Sullivan’s take on this news.

I am heart-broken tonight by Maine, and I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

Somehow losing by this tiny margin is brutalizing. And because this is a vote on my dignity as a human being, it is hard not to take it personally or emotionally. But I also know that the history of civil rights movements has many steps backward as forward, and some of those reversals actually catalyze the convictions that lead to victories. A decade ago, the marriage issue was toxic. Now it divides evenly. Soon, it will win everywhere.

I know for many younger gays and lesbians, this process can seem bewildering and hurtful. But I’m old enough now to be able to look back and see the hill we have climbed in such a short amount of time, and the minds and hearts we have changed. Including our own.

Know hope.

And Sullivan helps us know hope in his reporting on the results of “the other marriage nail-biter”:

In Washington State, another referendum on gay couples’ equality was also a squeaker. But in this one, gay couples won. The state’s domestic partnership law grants gay couples all the rights of married couples at a state level. The usual forces tried to reverse it, as they tried in Maine. But in Washington, the gay side won by 51.1 to 48.9 percent. Again, it's such a slender margin, it’s stupid to draw any vast conclusions.

But I do want to point out that, from the perspective of just a decade ago, to have an even split on this question in a voter referendum is a huge shift in the culture. In Maine, where the Catholic church did all it could to prevent gays from having civil rights in a very Catholic and rural state, gays do have equality but may now merely be denied the name. The process itself has helped educate and enlighten and deepen the debate about gay people in ways that never happened before the marriage issue came up.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Maine Vote on Gay Marriage Too Close to Call
Scandalous News from Maine

Recommended Off-site Links and Updates:
The Day After Election Day - Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, November 4, 2009).
What Thomas Jefferson Would Think of Maine Voting on Other People’s Rights - Mike Alvear (Huffington Post, November 4, 2009).
A Few Words on Maine and the Dying Hog of Homophobia - Pam Spaulding (Pam’s House Blend, November 4, 2009).
Election Night: Several Steps Forward, One Step Back - Terence Weldon (Queering the Church, November 4, 2009).
Bigotry and the Infusion of Religion in the Civil Laws Prevail in Maine - Michael B. Hamer (Michael-In-Norfolk, November 4, 2009).

Image: Partners Lisa Brackbill, left, and Lisa Pugh, right, both from Buckfield, Maine console one another along with Darlene Huntress, center, of Portland, after learning about the unofficial defeat on Question 1 at election night headquarters in Portland, Maine, early Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, 2009. Maine voters decided to rescind the Legislature’s approval of same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

Image 2: A same-sex couple from San Francisco, attend a marriage equality rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in 2004. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Alex Wong)

Image 3: Ellen Pontac, left, and her wife Shelly Bailes celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in Sacramento, California, last year. (AFP/Getty Images/File/Max Whittaker)

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