In what is being called the single biggest night for gay rights in electoral history, voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington voted to legalize same-sex marriage for the first time in the United States.
“Tonight, supporters from Portland to Presque Isle have sent a clear message that truth and love are more powerful than fear and deception,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “I could not be more proud of the fact that it was voters in my home state of Maine who did it first.”
Polls consistently showed that voters in Maine favored same-sex marriage, but that did not take away from the euphoric mood when the result was announced.
“The moment that we won is indescribable,” said Leslie Beliveau, UMaine campus organizer of Mainers United for Marriage. “It was silent for a fraction of a second, and then the room erupted in excitement and tears of joy. I still get goosebumps thinking about it every time.”
After same-sex marriage was signed into law in Maine in 2009, it was overturned by a voter referendum, 53 to 47 percent. Voters on election night reversed course however, voting to legalize same-sex marriage by a margin of 53 to 47 percent.
“I think this victory speaks volumes in terms of the progress that has been made for the LGBT community,” Beliveau said. “We will continue to have these conversations, speak out against homophobia, discrimination, and hate, because our work here is not done. Nobody has to be ashamed of who they are.”
Same sex couples will now receive the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexual couples in Maine, including property, inheritance, and health care decisions. The new law is expected to take effect early January.
However, same-sex couples who marry in Maine are still not recognized on a federal level, because the Federal Defense of Marriage act defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Beliveau sees the result in Maine as a part of a larger trend of accepting gay marriage and hopes the fight will spread nationwide.
“I’m no [political analyst who predicted the outcome of all 50 states] Nate Silver but I see this as a positive movement for the gay rights community,” Beliveau said.
President Obama announced earlier this year his support of same-sex marriage, and a spokesperson on behalf of the campaign remarked that voters all came down on the right side of history.
However, fierce opposition to same sex marriage still remains.
The Christian Civic League of Maine vowed not to end the fight against gay marriage in a fiercely written manifesto.
“We are exploring the possibility of returning to the ballot again to overturn this egregious new definition of marriage. That may mean another campaign, including a signature drive to get it back on another ballot,” Pastor Bob Emrich said.
The Vatican spoke out against the election results also, sharing Emrich’s sentiments:
“Monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is an achievement of civilization. If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy?”
Such criticism didn’t stop McTighe from steering Mainers United to victory. He says it won’t stop the gay rights movement across the country: “To all the states out there that have seen marriage stripped away or blocked at the ballot box, take hope from the change that’s taken place over the last three years in Maine.”