Civil Liberties

Marriage Equality: Why it Is Critical You Passionately Care About Maine

One of the most important fights in the country over same-sex marriage is going on in Maine right now and you can help.

You care about Maine.

You fervently, powerfully, passionately care about Maine.

Trust me on this one. You may not know it yet. You may be going, "Maine? Huh? I mean, sure, Maine's cool, I've got nothing against Maine -- but care about it passionately?" You do. Maine is very, very important to you.

Let me explain why.

As you may or may not know, the Maine legislature recently legalized same-sex marriage. But Maine law allows for a "people's veto," letting voters overturn any law the legislature passes. There is, predictably, a proposition on the Maine ballot this November -- Proposition 1 -- to overturn this new law, and ban same-sex marriage in the state. People who support marriage equality are gearing up -- have been gearing up for some time -- to defeat Prop. 1.

So why is this so important? I mean, there are battles over same-sex marriage in lots of states: battles happening right now, and ones looming on the horizon. And they're happening in states that are a lot bigger than Maine, and a whole lot more visible. Why do you care about this one so much? Why is this fight different from all other fights?

There are two big reasons why you care about Maine. Momentum, and precedent.

Let's talk momentum first. The far right and the religious right see Maine's Proposition 1 as ground zero in the fight to stop same-sex marriage. They are already pouring huge gobs of money and resources into this one; they even got the same guy who ran the Yes on Prop 8 campaign to run it. They're not idiots: they see that the momentum for same-sex marriage has been building like a freight train. We lost a lot of steam over Prop 8; but we picked it up again with Iowa and Vermont and New Hampshire, and indeed with Maine. And public opinion is slowly but steadily shifting in favor of same-sex marriage.

The far right desperately wants to stop this one in its tracks.

We can't let them.

We have to keep the momentum going. Momentum is huge in changing public opinion: with every state that legalizes same-sex marriage, it becomes increasingly obvious that same-sex marriage won't destroy your family and poison your dog and bring civilization to its knees. It becomes increasingly obvious that when same-sex marriage is legalized, life goes on pretty much exactly like it did before -- except that same-sex couples will be visiting their partners in the hospital and so on.

And momentum is huge in politics. A win makes the next campaign on the issue seem less radical and less scary; not just for voters, but for politicians and public figures, who are way more likely to fight for a cause if it looks like it already has some traction. A win energizes and inspires the winners; a loss tends to demoralize the losers, and forces them to retrench. Plus, for better or worse, a lot of people don't like to feel like they're on the losing side. They're more likely to support a candidate or a cause when it looks like it can win, and is winning. With every state that legalizes same-sex marriage, the next one is way more likely to do it too. Same-sex marriage is going to look more normal, more like no big deal... and it's going to look inevitable.

The right isn't wrong about this one. This is ground zero. We need to get every bit as involved in No on 1 as we did in No on 8. If we lose this one, we will, in fact, have lost a tremendous amount of momentum. But if we win, we will have loaded a huge heap of coal into that freight train's engine. It will make the fight for same-sex marriage in every other state -- in New York, in New Jersey, in California in 2010 or 2012, and eventually in Oregon and Minnesota and Alabama -- much, much easier, and much more winnable.

The other reason Maine is so important is precedent. Same-sex marriage can now be legally performed in five U.S. states, six if you count Maine -- but in every one of those states, it was legalized by either the legislature or the courts. In the U.S., same-sex marriage has never, ever won at the ballot box. Ever. The right has always been able to use smears and scare tactics and even flat-out lies to keep voters from supporting same-sex marriage… tactics that are (marginally) less effective on judges and legislators than they are on voters.

If we win this one, it will be a huge precedent. The far right won't be able to say that the courts and legislatures are shoving same-sex marriage down the throats of the people. The people will have spoken. And they will have spoken for fairness and equality.

There's one more thing I want to point out before I finish up: This is a very winnable fight. The polls are very close on Prop 1... and as of this writing, we're slightly ahead. And the No on 1 organization is very, very good: they've been working on this issue for years, and they're already well-prepared to launch their opposition to the ugly attacks they know they'll be getting. They've already started doing education and what they call "inoculation" against the fear-mongering they know they're going to be facing. And Maine is, as the No on 1 organizers are fond of saying, a cheap date. It's a small state, and media buys and whatnot are a lot less expensive than they were in, say, California. We can win this one.

Okay. So now you passionately care about Maine. You get why supporting No on 1 is the biggest, most important thing you can do right now to support same-sex marriage -- not just for Maine, but for the rest of the country.

What can you do to help?

Talk1: Talk about it. We have to get this on the national radar now. If you're a blogger, blog about it. If you're a journalist, cover it. If you're a progressive activist, get it on the radar of progressive organizations and allies -- even ones that aren’t specifically focused on LGBT issues. And if you're a regular citizen, talk about it. Tweet it, Facebook it, shoot it to your email list, gas on about it at parties, bring it up with your family and friends. Explain about the momentum, and the precedent, and the winnability. Let other people know, not just that the fight is happening, but why it's such a big freakin' deal.

And do it now. Don't wait until right before the election. We don't want to make the mistake we made with Prop 8 (well, one of the mistakes): we don't want to spend the entire campaign playing defense. We need to help lay the groundwork now for a pro-active campaign. And in Maine, early voting starts in early October. If we wait until November to pitch in on this fight, we'll have waited too long. We have to get this on the national radar, now.

Piggy_bank_-_dollar2: Give money. It doesn't have to be a huge amount -- again, Maine is a cheap date, and small amounts can make a big difference -- but give what you can. (If everyone who reads this blog donated $25, that would be a decent-sized chunk of their budget.)

And do it now. Don't wait until right before the election. Early money is one of the most powerful tools that a political campaign can have. Political campaigns need to know early what their budget will be so they can plan accordingly; more to the point, media buys and other costly campaigning efforts have to be done early in order to be really effective. (See above, re: not screwing up and playing defense like we did with Prop 8.) And again, early voting in Maine starts in early October: if we wait until November, we'll have waited too long.

Helping_hands_43: Pitch in. The No on 1 campaign is doing something they're calling a Volunteer Vacation: if you fly yourself out to Maine, they'll put you up in community housing, and they'll train you on canvassing and phone banking and political campaigning generally -- training you'll be able to use, not just in this campaign, but in any campaign you decide to get involved with in the future. Plus you'll get to visit Maine in the fall, which is unbelievably gorgeous. (There are four one- week shifts available, from October 4 through November 1.)

And if you already live in Maine, there's plenty you can do to help: you can canvass, phone bank, do data entry or other office help, host house parties, and more.

Maine isn't just where the battle is now. Maine will help immeasurably in winning every other battle we have ahead of us. This fight is different from all other fights. Please help win it.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.