Winter has already come to parts of Maine. In the ominously named “Caribou,” several inches of snow have already fallen, and the western part of the state has experienced a “wintry mix” – which sounds like a snack from a bad holiday party.
So spare a thought for the ground warriors up there, slogging through this mess in their door-to-door campaign to tip the very tight race on gay marriage in their favor. That’s a good tactic in a small state, but really: Who cares? Why have millions of dollars come cascading into the state in an effort to influence this question? It turns out that more is at stake here than most people realize.
First, some background: This past May, a marriage equality bill was signed into law. But Maine law allows citizens the “People’s Veto,” whereby a small percentage of citizens can ask their fellow Mainers to reject recently passed laws.
So, this coming Tuesday, voters will decide ballot Question 1, which asks whether the new law should be rejected. And the pelts are flying. The “Yes on 1” forces ran an ad that had unspecified “legal experts” predicting apocalypse –including a flood of lawsuits and “homosexual marriage taught in schools” – were the law to stand. The State’s Attorney General, Janet Mills, said that she’d “scoured” the law for any mention of marriage in state-wide educational curricula, but found none. “Yes on 1” answered that by calling Mills’s opinion “a shameless political ploy.” And so on.
What’s really at stake here? Just that a few thousand same-sex couples might get to marry? Even that’s not as big a deal as you might think. “Yes on 1” spokesman Mark Mutty, in what was surely the dreariest debate on an important topic ever televised, was willing to just about throw the baby out with the bathwater, conceding that gay couples should have the same rights as straight ones – just without the name “marriage.”
But the anti-equality forces are running out of rhetorical weapons, and a loss in Maine would strip them of an important one. When courts demanded marriage equality, “robed activists” were the problem. Next, when legislatures passed equality bills,those exercises in representative democracy weren’t…democratic, because they had been hijacked by special interests. “Whenever the people have voted,” they say, “’traditional marriage’ wins.”
In a few days, they might not be able to say that, either. If this law stands, the final wall will have been breached.