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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine

2011-JUN: Referendum proposed for 2012-NOV.
Estimated support for SSM by 2012-NOV.

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2011-JUN-30: Announcement of a new referendum drive:

More than 150 supporters of same-sex marriage assembled on the steps of Lewiston City Hall to announce the start of a drive to place a voters' initiative on the 2012-NOV ballot. The drive will be led by EqualityMaine (EQME) and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The goal is to restore access to marriage by same-sex couples (SSM) in Maine that was terminated in 2009-NOV by voters during a previous referendum: Proposition 1. 1

Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, felt that there will have been sufficient voter swing in favor of SSM since that proposition . She believes that they can win in 2012-NOV. She said:

"We know this because we're going door-to-door, talking with Mainers, about why marriage matters to gay and lesbian people." 2

Pastor Michael Gray of the Old Orchard Beach United Methodist Church delivered an application form for the citizen initiative to state officials on JUN-30. He once regarded himself as a born-again Christian, a political conservative and opposed to SSM. He has has changed his mind about same-sex marriage. He said:

"I not only support their right to have the freedom to marry if they are lucky to find someone that they love, I also think that it is imperative that the state treat and protect these relationships and the families that they create in the same way that my family is treated and protected." 2

The proposed initiative as delivered to the Maine Secretary of State reads:

"Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?"

The reference to the preservation of religious freedom seems redundant because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of clergy and religious denominations to discriminate on any grounds that they wish.

For example:

  • The Roman Catholic Church has:
    • Refused to marry divorced persons unless their previous marriage was first annulled by the Church;
    • Refused to consider women for ordination either as priests or deacons;
      Refused to consider girls in some dioceses as altar servers;
    • Refused to marry couples because of a physical disability of one of the parties.

  • Other Christian denominations have:
    • Refused to marry inter-faith couples,
    • Refused to marry couples who were not sufficiently mature in the view of the pastor,
    • Refused to marry interracial couple, etc. 

We have never been able to find any denomination or clergy person who has been charged over their decision to not marry a couple.

However, it is probably a good idea to add this clause to the initiative because, in the past, religious conservatives have mounted anti-SSM campaigns in Maine based on the fear of loss of religious freedom to discriminate against lesbians, gays, or bisexuals (LGBs).

EqualityMaine and GLAD launched a new educational website: www.WhyMarriageMattersMaine.org.

Matt McTighe, Maine director of public education for GLAD, said:

"In the coming months we’re going to continue to help same-sex couples, their family members and their friends share their stories and talk about why marriage matters to them. We know that as more people come to understand the love and commitment that gay and lesbian couples share, we will continue to change hearts and minds."

Before the referendum is scheduled, the wording must be approved by the government and the sponsoring groups must collect more than 57,277 valid signatures from registered voters before 2012-JAN.

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Levels of support for, and opposition to, SSM in Maine -- now and estimated for 2012-NOV:

The final results of Proposition 1 -- the 2009 plebiscite in Maine that terminated SSMs -- were 53% to 47% against marriage equality -- a margin of 6 percentage points. The voter turnout was 60% which was high for an off-year election. As expected, strong support was expressed in the more progressive areas of the state: mostly the costal cities. Strong opposition was apparent in the northern rural areas.

Trying to estimate accurately the current level on support for SSM in Maine or to predict what the result of a new referendum will be in 2012 is a task somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to achieve. 

To complicate matters, some commentators have suggested that a tipping point was reached in early 2011, and that we can expect a future acceleration in the rate of change towards increasing LGBT equality. This predication may be coming true, when one considers that there were four major items in the news during a two-week interval in late 2011-JUN when the Maine initiative was launched: the United Nations declaration supporting LGBT rights worldwide, the new law in New York State legalizing SSM, the Rhode Island legislature passing a civil unions bill, and seven same-sex couples launching a lawsuit for marital equality in New Jersey.

Some brave statisticians have tried to make estimates:

  • A meta study by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University showed from past polling data that during 1994-1995, Maine had the 9th highest level of support for SSM among the 50 states. 3,4They found that support in Maine was rapidly increasing, as it has in all of the states except for Utah:

    • 1994 - 1995: 28% support for SMM in Maine.
    • 2003 - 2004: 39% support.
    • 2008 - 2009: 48% support. This compares well with the 47% seen in Proposition 1's result.
    • 2010: 55% support in Maine. This is an estimate by the same team. 5 They used a sophisticated statistical technique to generate state estimates from then-current national polls and past data from states.

  • The Maine Public Broadcasting Network wrote of EqualityMaine and GLAD:

    "Two polls commissioned by the groups support their intuition by indicating that 53 % of Mainers now favor same-sex marriage." 2

    By Election Day in 2012 there might well be a few more percentage points added to the level of support for SSM in the state simply because of the national trends.

  • A number of national polls since 2009 have indicated that most American adults now support SSM. Further, the gap between those who support SSM and those who oppose it is in the vicinity of 8 or 9 percentage points nationally in 2011.

    • 2010-AUG: The Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed 52% in favor of marriage equality and 46% opposed, for a margin of 6 percentage points.

    • 2011-MAR-10-13: A Washington Post/ABC News poll reported 53% in favor and 44% opposed for a margin of 9 percentage points.

    • 2011-MAY-05-08: A Gallup Inc. poll found 53% support and 45% opposition for a margin of 8 percentage points.

Since Maine has traditionally been in the top 20% of states in terms of support for SSM, the chances of the referendum being passed by the voters would seem to be fairly high if the vote had been held in the spring of 2011. Since it would be scheduled for 2012-NOV, its chances of passing would be increased if the upswing in national support for marriage equality continues.

  • Nate Silver maintains the FiveThirtyEight blog on the New York Times. He specializes in the statistical analysis of political trends and campaigns. During 2009, he built a statistical model that "... attempted to predict the percentage of the vote that gay marriage-related ballot initiatives will receive" in a given state. He predicted that Maine's Proposition 1 in 2009-NOV had a 3-in-4 chance of being defeated. He writes:

    "In fact, the measure won and same-sex marriage was repealed in Maine, although the results were close and within the model’s margin of error." 6

On 2011-JUN-29, he published a new analysis for each state using two techniques:

  • A linear model which assumes that the support for same-sex marriage increases at about the same rate every year, and

  • An accelerated model that uses the trend line from national polls on same-sex marriage. 

The two models "... produce nearly identical estimates on the historical data, they diverge somewhat in their forecasts [of future data] because same-sex marriage appears to have gained support at a faster rate during the last couple of years." 6

His linear model predicts a 43.9% vote share for a hypothetical same-sex marriage banning referendum in Maine on 2012-NOV. It would be "favored to be rejected."

His accelerated model predicts a 39.6% vote share for a hypothetical same-sex marriage ban 2012 referendum in Maine. It would be "very likely to be rejected."

If these predictions were applied to a referendum on restoration -- not a banning -- of SSM, one might expect the citizen initiative to be favored to be accepted or very likely to be accepted by the voters.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Timothy Rose, "LGBT Advocates, religious and political allies continue the journey toward marriage equality in Maine," Equality Maine, 2011-JUN-30, at: http://equalitymaine.org/
  2. Josie Huang, "Maine Gay Marriage Supporters Launch New Referendum Drive," Main Public Broadcasting Network, 2011-JUN-30, at: http://www.mpbn.net/
  3. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness," American Political Science Review, Volume 103 (3), 2009.
  4. Ibid, Figure 6, Page 48, Columbia University, at: http://www.columbia.edu/ This is a PDF file.
  5. A Gelman, J. Lax & J. Philips, "Support for Same-Sex Marriage, State by State" The New York Times, 2011-AUG-10, at: http://www.nytimes.com/ 
  6. Nate Silver, "The Future of Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Measures," FiveThirtyEight blog, 2011-JUN-29, at: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/

Copyright © 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-JUL-04
Latest update: 2012-FEB-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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