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Marriage equality goes down in Maine

(WASHINGTON DC) – Throughout the country today LGBT individuals, activists, and civil rights organizations are collectively disheartened at the passage of Question 1 in Maine, which vetoed the state’s law recognizing same-sex marriages.

Said Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer C. Pizer, "Just a few days after Halloween, we see how effective our opponents' trick-or-treat strategy truly was - going state to state, shouting ‘boo’ at voters to scare them into voting away the rights of their gay neighbors. Forcing any minority to endure a barrage of lies and insults, ending with a vote that denies them full citizenship, is cruel – it’s not the government our founders envisioned. Ballot measures driven by prejudice are poison; honesty and equality are the essential cure.

“Although we lost our battle in Maine, we will not allow the lies and hate - the foundation on which our opponents built their campaign - to break our spirits. We are on the right side of history and we will continue this fight,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “I am angry. But more importantly, I am determined that with the anger I feel today from this outcome in Maine, we’ll rise ever stronger to demand equal treatment under the law and equal respect for our relationships in Maine, California, New Jersey, and every state of the Union.”

Maine was poised to become the fifth state in the United States to recognize same-sex marriage in May 2009, after the measure was passed by the state Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor John Baldacci. The issue was placed on the statewide ballot after opponents to marriage equality submitted sufficient signatures for a people’s veto referendum.

"This law did not threaten families; rather it was an historic step that strengthened Maine families,” said Solmonese.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force also expressed deep disappointment in the apparent passage of Question 1.

Said Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, “This heartbreaking defeat in Maine unfortunately shows that lies and fear can still win at the ballot box. Yet despite this setback, the tide clearly is turning nationwide in favor of marriage equality. We are confident that Maine will again join the growing number of states that extend the essential security and legal protections of marriage to all loving, committed couples. All across the nation, same-sex couples and their families are sharing their stories and their lives with others in a conversation that is transforming our country. That doesn’t end today. If anything, it inspires and compels us to press forward.

“We extend our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of volunteers and campaign workers who fought their hardest for equality in Maine, to the No on 1 campaign and EqualityMaine for their enduring leadership, and to the voters who cast their ballots for fairness rather than fear-mongering.”

Although marriage equality went down in Maine, a silver lining may have come in the form of a victory in Washington. In last night’s election, voters in Washington have decidedly concluded to move forward with Referendum 71, an initiative to approve the state’s domestic partnership law.

A bill to expand domestic partner benefits in the state was passed by the legislature in May 2009 and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire. The measure was then placed on the ballot after opponents collected enough signatures to qualify for a referendum. The law provides state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners with the same state-level benefits that married couples enjoy. Voters in Washington appear to have approved the new law by passing the initiative.

In another step towards equality, Voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan last night passed Ordinance 1856, which bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment and public accommodations.

“Although we are bitterly disappointed at the loss in Maine, we are excited to see the people of Washington have joined together and have likely voiced a ‘yes’ for equality. Their votes will ensure that state-registered domestic partners will be fully protected under the law,” said Solmonese.

Said Pizer, "So, as with last year's election, the LGBT community must confront a bittersweet moment - another devastating yet razor-thin setback in Maine, together with a galvanizing win in Washington State and Kalamazoo – just as a year ago we woke up to find our rights stripped away in California by Proposition 8, but a hopeful new day in the White House. As heartbreaking as that narrow loss was, it spurred a massive new wave of engagement nationwide that is helping us win full equality step by step.

"We now have marriage equality in five states, 18,000 married lesbian and gay couples in California, and the first federal law protecting against antigay abuse. Based on the vote tally so far it's encouraging and important that Washington State voters preserved that state's comprehensive domestic partners legislation. They were able to pick their way through the muck of lies and misinformation spread by our opponents - funded, as in the Prop 8 campaign, by a massive infusion of cash from out-of-state religious groups.

And the good news from Kalamazoo, Michigan confirms that positive change continues in the Midwest, as well as on the coasts and in Congress. While we don’t win every battle, there’s no denying that time is on our side and equality is prevailing.”