LGBT Rights 2009: Maine

Originally posted by me in the GW Discourse blog.

Earlier this year, Maine’s legislature passed same-sex marriage, and the law was signed by Governor Baldacci. Six months later, Maine’s ballot initiative (Prop 1) banning same-sex marriage was approved by 53% of voters.

Attempting to legalize same-sex marriage through public vote is essentially fighting a losing battle. 31 out of 31 states that have put this issue the ballot have succeeded in banning same-sex marriage. But, to put it simply, Maine was supposed to be different. Maine is a libertarian state, geographically close to states that have legalized same-sex marriage through their legislatures. More importantly, proponents of same-sex marriage fought an excellent fight. They learned from the mistakes they made last year, when California passed Prop 8, and invested an incredible amount of money, time, and effort into the Maine campaign.

Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage,the leading conservative Christian group against same-sex marriage, released the following comments about Maine:

Maine is one of the most secular states in the nation. It’s socially liberal. They had a three-year head start to build their organization, and they outspent us two to one. If they can’t win there, it really does tell you the majority of Americans are not on board with this gay marriage thing.

Gallagher has a point. If the LGBT community lost the battle in a place like Maine, how can they hope to win anywhere?

But the failure in Maine may not be as telling as it seems. First of all, voter turnout in Maine for this election was nearly 50%. This was extraordinarily high for a non-presidential election, but it still means that the views less than half of Maine’s electorate were accounted for. More importantly, only the views of certain groups were accounted for.

As young, politically minded individuals, we are unhappily aware of the fact that our fellow young people are highly unlikely to vote. A Gallup poll from May 2009 shows that the 18-29 age group is by far the most likely to support same-sex marriage. 59% of America’s youth believe in recognizing same-sex marriage. This is the only age group that has majority support for same-sex marriage, and it is the least represented in the government. Perhaps if youth voter turnout was higher, same-sex marriage would have a shot at passing. But until we can convince our peers to participate in politics, same-sex marriage doesn’t have much of a chance of winning over the public vote.

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