DESPAIR: Marriage Equality Fails (again)

edvard-munch-despair-1894With the passage of time, some things may change. Political attitudes may evolve and public support may appear on the rise; but in the end most things remain the same.

Today, the election results from Maine’s Question #1 to repeal Marriage Equality for Gay and Lesbian partners appears to have passed, by a similar margin to the California vote last year which amended the California Constitution to ban same gender couples from having the rights of marriage.

Associated Press reports this morning:

PORTLAND, Maine – Maine voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, dealing the gay rights movement a heartbreaking defeat in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.

Gay marriage has now lost in every single state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine — known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate — and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.

With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the votes.

This result is significant, not just for the people of Maine, but for those in California spear-heading an effort to repeal by initiative last years Proposition 8. One of the foundational arguments for the Repeal 8 effort has been the belief that the support for marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples has increased since the vote a year ago, and the conviction that such support will only increase over the next twelve months when the repeal initiative is planned for presentation to the voters.

The result in Maine provides us with just one more example of a few core problems in relying on the voting public to embrace change. First, like with interracial marriage, if the question is placed to the voters, history shows that those who have a right are rarely willing to give someone else that same right. The change that brought the strongest advancements in civil rights have been initiated by our federal and state courts, not by voter initiatives. Second, people vote their fears, and the opponents of marriage equality have been very successful at capitalizing on those fears to stop advancement of this civil right.

The results from this election make one thing very clear. Our record in achieving Marriage Equality by action of the voters is a dismal 31-0 against success. A significant amount of voter education will be necessary to achieve majority support for Marriage Equality in California and around the nation.

Approve ref71The work we need to do will not be easy, and the results will not materialize over night. Absent  U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Marriage Equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships, like approved by voters in Washington State on Turesday, appear to be about as far as we are going to move in the short term. This does not mean that we won’t ultimately get there, but I have my doubts about us getting there through a proposed ballot initiative in California next November.

Going to the voters over and over again with the same request hoping for a different result, absent application of the financial resources to get voters to change their core opinions, is the very definition of futility.

  1 comment for “DESPAIR: Marriage Equality Fails (again)

  1. Howard be my name
    November 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

    At least one thing is very clear: going back to the California voters in 2010 is certain to be an enormous mistake. There could be a better chance in 2012. Either way, it’s critical not to lose again. Another loss in California would set the movement back terribly.

Comments are closed.