Gay Marriage, Maine and Mormons

It seems that voters in Maine, by people’s veto, overturned the legislature’s decision to approve Gay Marriage. The results are here

Yes 266324 52.75%
No 238595 47.25%

In Contrast, Washington State voted to approve legislation that would give domestic partnerships completely equivalent rights within the state except without the label of marriage ( of course, federal rights would be at issue were DOMA to be repealed. Results here.

This night thus provides an interesting contrast on legislation relating to gay rights and marriage. While it is still early to draw conclusions and a lot of analysis must be done to get a more complete picture I think there are two tentative conclusions that can be drawn.

Conclusion #1: Opposition to Gay Marriage even in the most liberal states is not a “Mormon” driven phenomenon.

Opponents of 1 in Maine were very quick to paint the effort as a Mormon initiative despite a lack of any church involvement. Advertisements were taken out declaring that The Mormons Are Coming. Despite my personal sympathy for the No on 1 position, it seems that individuals intentionally tried to run a xenophobic Mormon bashing campaign and to play up fears and dislike of the LDS church.

Yet, Maine voters turned out in record numbers and still ended up voting for 1. Catholics in Maine were large donors to the campaign and were involved in the get out the vote operation. Maine hardly has a Latter Day Saint presence and there has been no evidence linking to any officially sponsored church activity or to a large surge of LDS involvement. This statement is of course tentative as the rolls of Yes on 1 donors are yet to be disclosed.

Yet, it seems to me that the opposition is deeper than merely foreign religious conservatives invading an otherwise ‘tolerant’ state. Just as in California, overwhelming numbers of non-religious or non-partisan citizens voted to opposed Gay Marriage.

The other conclusion that I at least draw from the contrast between Washington and Maine is that Americans, at least in the more progressive states, are not bigots. There is an effort to name call and label anyone who votes against Gay Marriage a bigot. Yet, this is the position of the majority of Americans including the President and vice president of the United States. They are willing to approve domestic partnership rights and to grant all other rights under the law but are also willing to fight in regard to the utilization of the word marriage. This is not a hateful or bigoted position in and of itself. I have absolutely no sympathy for the large percentage not vote for the Washington Amendment but plenty of empathy for those that voted yes on 1.

As much as those favoring Gay Marriage must be frustrated and infuriated now, it is important to remember that name calling only belittles their side. Indeed, this name calling often makes the pro-marriage side appear callous and belligerent. In contrast, I think that a position that emphasizes both love and the practical benefits of allowing gay marriage could prevail in future contests. Support for Gay Marriage band rests on the feeling that something has gone seriously wrong with marriage as an institution and that banning gay marriage will somehow solve hurts that are much more deeply rooted and come from our fragmented society. In contrast, Gay Marriage backers need to show that their marriages would strengthen the institution by allowing for more loving families ( through adoption) and relationships that are enduring and long lasting. Both sides can be said to be pro-family and struggling to define family as best it can. This is the major struggle ahead of us in the debates.

Anyway time for sleep. I will have more thoughts in the morning.


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