Thursday, November 8, 2012

Making History: Mainers Said Yes to Real Values

 by Carisa Cunningham, GLAD Director of Public Affairs and Education

I'm still carrying my Yes On 1 election night badge with me!
Although I have wandered a few election night ballrooms in my life, I have never been on the inside of a campaign night – watching returns in a boiler room, biting fingernails, eating fried food – until last Tuesday night.

At the Holiday Inn in Portland, I nervously awaited the result of the Maine ballot question on marriage equality with my fellow executive committee members – folks from the ACLU, EqualityMaine and MaineWomen’s Lobby I’ve worked with for years, through good times and bad, to get to this day

You all know the punchline, so no spoilers here: we won. And to be honest, I thought we would when I saw that our wonderful pollster, Amy Simon, had flown in from California to be with us.  Of all the places she could be – including a selection of campaigns or even with her own family – this was the place she had chosen.  

Seeing her gave me an extra boost of confidence in a campaign that had been perfectly run: with thoughtfulness, integrity, heart, and a tremendous amount of hard work.  In addition to the superb campaign staff of Mainers United, our not-so-secret weapon was the two years of conversations that we had with Mainers well before there was a campaign.

People were able to consider their real values outside the white-hot context of a marriage campaign, and they found that we all do have a great deal in common when it comes to relationships:  love, respect, commitment, sacrifice.  And that’s what Mainers voted on, and that’s what they voted for.  

As campaign manager par excellence Matt McTighe said, “Supporters from Portland to Presque Isle sent a clear message that truth and love are more powerful than fear and deception.”

Taking marriage rights for same-sex couples to the ballot is not anyone’s first choice – it is costly and difficult, and more importantly, it’s never a good idea to put people’s basic civil rights to a popular vote. Whether we get to marriage in each state by legislation, litigation or the ballot, what’s key is having those conversations with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers – and that they be conducted with respect.

Another attendee that night was former Maine governor John Baldacci, who has the distinction of being the first governor in the country to sign a marriage bill into law – a law that was ultimately, painfully, rescinded by ballot in 2009. He clearly wanted to see the finish of this historic effort, as well.

The moment that the results were announced in the ballroom was one of pure, pure joy. A thousand people cheered, wept, waved their arms, and jumped up and down, and kept doing it:

 You could actually feel the history being made.

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