Thoughts About Maine: Sad, Angry, Strategic, and Sappy


No on 1 Some early thoughts about the No on 1 defeat in Maine. (In case you haven’t heard: Same-sex marriage has once again been defeated at the ballot box. The Maine voters voted to overturn the law legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine.)

My first thought:

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck.

This is so disappointing. I just want to curl up and cry. This was a hard-fought, well-fought campaign: well-organized, well-publicized, planned for a long time in advance. What the fuck does it take? Why do people hate and fear us so much? (I know, I know. You don’t have to answer. It’s a rhetorical question.)

My second, angrier thought:

What the fuck?

Constitution_Pg1of4_AC At what point do our basic civil rights not get voted on anymore? At what point does equal citizenship in this country not be determined by a popularity contest? Of course I’m in favor of democracy; but the whole idea of a Constitution is that unpopular minorities need to be protected from the tyranny of the majority; that some questions, questions of basic rights, should not be determined by majority rule. And marriage is a basic right. At what point does the question of whether some people should be second-class citizens not get determined by mob rule?

Okay. Deep breath. A couple of quick preliminary thoughts about strategy and the future.

No-to-prop-8 One: I hope the passage of Yes on 1 on Maine will put a stop to the reflexive, “we could have won on Prop 8 in California if the campaign
hadn’t been botched” blame game.

I’m not saying we didn’t make mistakes in California. I know we did. And of course we should pay attention to those mistakes and learn from them. But if the No on 1 campaign teaches us anything, it’s that we can do just about everything right… and still lose. There are still a lot of people who fear us; there are still a lot of people who are willing to tell lies about us; and fear and lies can still win.

It could well be that Prop 8 won in California because the No on 8 campaign made mistakes. But it could also be that Prop 8 won in California because same-sex marriage has never, ever won at the ballot box in the U.S. It could be that Prop 8 won because same-sex marriage is just a really hard sell right now. I do think time is on our side… but when it comes to the ballot box, it isn’t on our side yet.

Two: I hope the people who want to put same-sex marriage back on the ballot in California in 2010 take a long, hard look at whether that’s really a good idea, and whether the timing is right.

Same-sex marriage is just really hard to win at the ballot right now. I think we need to accept that. We stand a much better chance of winning in 2012 than we do in 2010. To be blunt about it: Support for same-sex marriage skews, more than with almost any other demographic, according to age. The younger people are, the more likely they are to support it. To be brutally blunt: As more old people die, and as more young people become old enough to vote, the odds skew more and more in our favor. Also, the economy in California truly and profoundly sucks right now, and people just won’t be able to donate the kind of money to a political campaign that they did in 2008. And 2012 is a Presidential election year, when voter turnout is always higher — and high voter turnout almost always means more young voters, and almost always favors liberal candidates and causes.

Clock Time is on our side. For Loki’s sweet sake, let’s use it.

Finally, I want to say this:

I am deeply and seriously touched by the response my readers gave to my calls for action on this. Many of you donated money; talked with friends and family; phone banked; blogged about the issue; spread the word in email and on social networks. Some of you even did the Volunteer Vacation thing, spending a week of your no-doubt scarce free time to work in person for this cause. Those of you who did: You are my heroes. You totally rock my world.

This is a disappointing loss. But I have confidence that we will win in the long run. And I am blown away by all of the support y’all gave to this cause. I am more grateful than I can say.

Comments

  1. Matt says

    I am disappointed that lies and dehumanizing have prevailed once more, because those two atrocious things served as the foundation for Yes on 1’s campaign. They were able to deceive the masses by outright lying about school curriculum. They assailed any and all public officials that condemned their fear-mongering and exploitation of children to directly attack tax-paying, law-abiding gay citizens.
    I am ashamed to live in the supposed Land of the Free. I wish to see a day when basic civil rights – basic civil rights that are the foundation to my pursuit of happiness as an average citizen – aren’t subjected to the tyranny of a vicious majority.
    If you are a gay citizen whose private life has been torn apart by the lies of Yes on 1, I embrace you. We ran an honorable campaign with honorable intentions for marriage equality. Let us take a stronger stand for the future by reminding the theocrats of their narrow margin.
    Their only victory is successfully denying a segment of the population some basic rights as a citizen. Shameful.

  2. says

    Fuck indeed.
    The No on 1 side has the support of the majority of the people of Maine… but not a majority of the people motivated to go and vote. It’s going to be hard to match the religious right for turnout; we can’t promise the end of the world if the other side win. But we stand a much better chance in 2012, when people will be more likely to turn up to vote.
    That said, fuck.

  3. Valhar2000 says

    And people still criticize me for saying that the majority of humans are dumber than a pile of leaves. Unfortunately, this is one of those situations in which being right gives little succor.

  4. Jack says

    Horribly depressing.
    One day people will look back on those who opposed gay marriage in the same way we now look back at those who opposed women’s suffrage. I wish they realised that. Maybe it would shame some of them into doing the right thing (or at least keeping their retrograde bigotry to themselves) but I fear life doesn’t work that way. They firmly believe they’re right, even though history will ultimately damn them.
    Some of us oldsters are on your side, you know. We’ll have to try not to die before the bigots. :-)

  5. Adele says

    This is horrifying. So, so horrifying. I barely know what to say, beside: I’m so sorry, Greta. I really am.

  6. says

    ” . . . the whole idea of a Constitution is that unpopular minorities need to be protected from the tyranny of the majority . . .”
    Exactly. It’s insane that hoards of the intolerant, the bigoted and biased, have the power to mete out and withhold equality. I was sure that this would end differently in Maine. I feel sick.

  7. says

    As a future Maine resident, I watched this closely. And the results were fairly close (last time I looked it was 53% Yes, 47% No). So that means almost half the people voted No. I have to focus on that so that I don’t get too depressed. One thing I do know is that Mainers are not fond of folks coming from the outside (“from away”) and telling them what to do. That’s one reason we like it and are moving there when we can. But I live in a state that does allow same-sex marriage and gollygeewhiz, the sky has not fallen. Give it time. (I know, I know).

  8. Penn says

    Sigh. It’s getting harder and harder to fall back on the “time is on our side” argument. Yeah, I know a bunch of old bigots (as well as some awesome progressive seniors) are dying every year, and that today’s teenagers are very supportive of equality, but this sucks. I have no doubt in my mind that my grandkids (whose parents aren’t even born) will be able to marry whoever they love, but why should another generation or two have to suffer under this bullshit.

  9. says

    I’m not a fan of democracy, that’s not what has made your country or mine successful. Iran votes on stuff, Korea votes on stuff, the USSR voted on stuff, even here in North American, people vote hateful things all the time (PTA’s are often the worst of it, I shudder to think how depressed you’d be if you and your wife had kids). And everyone votes ignorantly on issues; it is impossible for even a highly educated person to become an expert on all the issues.
    The good part is the elaborate series of checks and balances: Federal/State/Municipal, Judiciary/Legislature/Executive, Group/Individual Rights. Democracy is the weak part of that model.
    What we have just witnessed (again) is the most flawed aspect of our society’s organization overpowering the checks and balances of which people no longer understand the purpose.

  10. says

    I know this is depressing, but Greta is right about support for gay marriage being related to age. And Maine has the oldest population of all the states (at least as of 2005). I’m frankly astounded it did as well as it did.

  11. Fastthumbs says

    Here’s something that should help cheer you up Greta (and friends). Washington State Referendum 71 on domestic partner rights is winning. Predictably, Western WA is all for it and Eastern WA is all against it. However, most of the population is in Western WA.

  12. bob says

    I have no idea what it is like to have basic liberties withheld from me (Middle aged, white hetero-male).
    All I can do is angrily shake my head and wonder why so many people, in my demographic, can’t seem to ask themselves how they would feel if they were being discriminated against.
    I hate religion. I hate it from my very core. If it weren’t for ancient superstitions this blog post would never have been written.

  13. says

    The fact is, someone is always marginalized in a democracy. Horrible, but true. Same-sex marriage is not a threat to marriage–it’s a threat to those in power. Just think what would happen of all us fags and dykes were able to file joint tax returns and die intestate without the state taking all our money, ect. etc. The right-wing Christians my want us to believe they are acting on principle; the fact is, they are acting out of greed and selfishness. Fine “christians” they are!

  14. ChrisZ says

    I was so depressed watching the returns come in last night. I really felt that there was a good shot at winning in Maine. I guess we all underestimated the power of bigotry in this country.

  15. John the Drunkard says

    Well, as time passes the voter base will get younger…BUT the decay of public discourse and education will probably make sure that they are dumber and more easily lead by slimy demagogues.
    What would have happened if Brown v. Board of Education had been challenged via ballot initiative? Where would any minority civil rights advance have gone if it had been put to the mob for approval?
    Fuck!

  16. says

    I was so angry when I found out about this at 2 am this morning, I was almost sick. I find it difficult to reconcile my admiration of the US’ respect for inalienable rights with the blatantly selective application of that same value…

  17. Matt says

    “I find it difficult to reconcile my admiration of the US’ respect for inalienable rights with the blatantly selective application of that same value…”
    Wise words, my friend. My aunt has been urging me to move to Canada, since I live fairly close to the border. At least they don’t have to worry about so many social issues at the moment.

  18. Rieux says

    I’ve been depressed all day about this, and I’m neither in Maine nor GLBT.
    It’s really disheartening. I’m so sorry.

  19. says

    I spent a week up there, and all I can think is, I wish I’d done more. I wish I’d sold my laptop or something for the money to stay up another few weeks, called home, quit my job, sorted all that stuff out later.
    But really, that’s not the problem. The problem is that we let the other side get away with lying. Full-out, provable lying. I remember calling people in phone banks, and I’d get the occasional supporter who’d say, “Yes, I support same-sex marriage, but I’m not okay with teaching kids to be gay in elementary school so I’m voting yes.” And we were only calling people who’d been previously identified as serious supporters.
    I cried a lot today.

  20. Laura M says

    “…the whole idea of a Constitution is that unpopular minorities need to be protected from the tyranny of the majority; that some questions, questions of basic rights, should not be determined by majority rule.”
    Please excuse my lack of historical knowledge, but I just want to ask this. Did we, the general public, vote on whether or not to free the slaves? Did we vote on women’s suffrage? I’m guessing not. (I may be wrong.) It’s the government (congress, etc.) that should vote, not us. We put them in office to vote on these types of things,no?
    From the Wiki article on Women’s Suffrage: “During the beginning of the twentieth century, as women’s suffrage gained in popularity, suffragists were subject to arrests and many were jailed. Finally, President Woodrow Wilson urged Congress to pass what became, when it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.”
    From the Wiki on Ammendments: “Regardless of the method of proposing an amendment, final ratification requires approval by three-fourths of the states.”
    Can we get an Ammendment to the Constitution? Is that the way this should really be done? I am probably going in the wrong direction here but do you see my point? Are They having us run in circles, when we should be frying a different, bigger fish and getting the thing decided?
    Also, wouldn’t _most_ people say that gay people should have the right to vote? Own property? Drink at the same water fountain? Then why the heck shouldn’t they have ALL the same rights as everyone else who lives in this country?

  21. says

    But really, that’s not the problem. The problem is that we let the other side get away with lying. Full-out, provable lying. I remember calling people in phone banks, and I’d get the occasional supporter who’d say, “Yes, I support same-sex marriage, but I’m not okay with teaching kids to be gay in elementary school so I’m voting yes.” And we were only calling people who’d been previously identified as serious supporters.
    This is really frustrating. I wish more (or any) campaigns had the guts to call out the other side for blatant, provable lies. Call them lies, and question why they would have to resort to lying. Don’t mince words at all, and state flat out that it’s plain bigotry driving the other side.
    You’d be surprised how effectively a campaign can be run if you know the right tricks. Up here in Canada, there was a recent campaign over an issue of financing local TV stations. Both sides ran their campaigns, but one side (which I happen to agree with) was much better at it. Not only did they have more and more varied TV ads, but they were able to make sure that any ad by the opposing side was immediately followed by one of their own. Their opponents’ claims were immediately countered (they didn’t call them out on lies in the ads, as I might have preferred, but they did rebut their claims on their website).
    The point to take away: As good as a campaign might be, it can always be better. Mistakes may not have been made in Maine, but that doesn’t mean the vote couldn’t have been won with a better (qualitatively better, not just stronger) campaign.
    This will come up again in California in either 2010 or 2012, and I hope they can actually win one then. As soon as a campaign starts up, I’ll see about sending this example and my advice, in hopes that it could help.

  22. says

    I wish more (or any) campaigns had the guts to call out the other side for blatant, provable lies. Call them lies, and question why they would have to resort to lying. Don’t mince words at all, and state flat out that it’s plain bigotry driving the other side.

    Except that, as far as I know, they did exactly that in Maine. I don’t think they went on the super-attack — saying “The Catholic Church are a bunch of unethical lying pig-dogs” wasn’t going to get them anywhere — but they did try to counter the lies.
    Which brings it all back to religion. The lies were countered and called out. But believers are a lot more likely to believe their religious leaders than some rainbow- wearing queer perverts who are calling their priest a liar.
    And I honestly don’t know what to do about that. Except keep fighting religion. But while that has potential to help us a few decades/ centuries from now, it’s not very effective in the short term — i.e., my lifetime.

  23. says

    It’s small consolation in the midst of this loss, but I would note that Washington state’s “everything but marriage” civil-unions referendum did pass. Separate-but-equal is a far cry from genuine equality, but it’s also far better than nothing.
    We thought our loss in California was because of the ineptness on the part of the anti-Prop 8 organizers, but judging from what happened in Maine, it seems you can do everything right and still lose. I wonder if a Washington-type strategy might advance our cause more quickly? I think it’s at least worth considering whether granting same-sex couples all the rights of marriage, but without using the word, is something that’s more likely to win and that we can use as a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of true equality.

  24. Fastthumbs says

    I’ve felt that the term “marriage” should become an exclusively religious term (with no legal standing), and that legally, the state should consider only “civil unions” as binding and valid (which could be signed off by the clergy doing a marriage).
    That way the religious bigots can keep their “sanctity of marriage” if they wish, while couples of any type in a “civil union” can get on with all the legal and tax entitlements.
    Unfortunately this would entail
    1) Cleaning up lots of legalese
    2) The religious would object since it takes away another means of control in secular life.

  25. Matt says

    I’d rather not have them think that religion controls the meaning of marriage, which is essentially a dedicated bond between two individuals (ideally, they are consenting individuals). I’d rather say “Yes, I am married”, as opposed to, “Yes, I am in a civil union.”
    If you throw the religious nutjobs a respectable concession, they will only start demanding more out of a supposed position of power. They have been able to play around with words for far too long, and it’s becoming rather frustrating.

  26. Lex Stevens says

    I think that it is important to keep all of this in perspective. Maine was a political defeat in a complex battle against opponents who are much wealthier and more powerful than we are. The rights — implicit and implied — that the LGBT community has today are much greater than existed twenty-five years ago, and are much greater in the United States than they are for most people on the planet.
    It is only natural that we should be saddened by this defeat, but copping a self-righteous or a defeatist attitude is hardly healthy and is most definitely counterproductive.
    I become very angry when people from outside my state pour money and people into a political fight here. I can only imagine that others would feel the same.
    Experience has shown me that in the end it is about the personal. It is too easy for the church or other powerful groups to cast us as other, since many people either have not — or think they have not — met someone who is Gay. When I present the issue as I am someone who has a home and a family and a job then I get much further in convincing people that we are not so different after all.
    The battle is won before the two sides ever take the field. Same sex marriage in Massachusetts is not something that just happened; it was a well executed strategy that took thirty years to accomplish.
    California in 2010, 2012? The question is this: do you want to win, or do you just want to fight?

  27. says

    Fastthumbs: The problem with that argument is that “marriage” is a relationship and a contract that’s recognized, not only around the country, but around the world. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are not. Even if we successfully redefined “marriage” as the religious relationship and “civil unions” as the legal relationship here in the US (which is highly unlikely, as it would require legal code to be rewritten everywhere on the federal, state, and local level), it still wouldn’t get same-sex relationships legally recognized in other countries.
    And even in states that have civil unions written into the law, they often aren’t recognized in a practical day-to-day way. They found this in New Jersey: a discouragingly high percentage of civil-unioned couples are not getting the benefits they’re legally entitled to from their employers.
    Besides, marriage is an unbelievably old ritual, with millennia’s worth of weight and meaning and gravitas behind it. There is no way that civil unions will ever be afforded the same gravitas and meaning and respect.

  28. says

    At first I was for going back to the ballot box in CA in 2010–my knee-jerk reaction to our loss here on Prop 8. But I agree that we should probably wait until 2012.
    Ideally, though, state’s should get out of the marriage business.
    But that is an ideal, not reality, at least not now.

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