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Maine vote a devastating blow to gay marriage

Maine voters on Tuesday voted down a law that would have legalized gay marriage in the state. It became the 31st state to reject gay marriage at the ballot box.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer / November 4, 2009

Gay marriage supporter Karen Weiss (l.) comforts Jennifer Hoopes as they watch election results at the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality rally in Portland, Maine, Tuesday night. The group is worked to prevent the repeal of Maine's gay marriage law, which was adopted last spring by Maine's legislature.

Joel Page/REUTERS

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In an election that was seen as a national litmus test on gay marriage, Maine voters overturned a state law that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

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In doing so, Maine joins the growing ranks of states – now 31 in all – that have rejected gay marriage at the ballot box. No state has ever voted to legalize gay marriage. Gay marriage was passed by the legislature or mandated by courts in the five states where it is legal: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

The Maine vote is a devastating defeat to the gay-rights movement, which poured millions of dollars and sent hundreds of volunteers to Maine. Their goal was to persuade Maine voters to uphold the law that Democratic Gov. John Baldacci signed in May.

The result will send a clear message to other state legislatures considering bills to legalize gay marriage, says Brian Brown, executive director of the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage, which contributed $1.8 million to the Maine campaign against the state law.

The victory is especially important to same-sex marriage opponents nationally, he says, because Maine is considered a relatively liberal state in New England – where the gay-rights movement has already gained a strong foothold.

Gay marriage opponents jubilant

Yet on Wednesday morning, with 87 percent of precincts reporting, 53 percent of Maine voters decided to reject the state’s gay-marriage law, the Associated Press reports.

“The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across this nation,” Frank Schubert told the supporters of the Stand for Marriage campaign, an anti-gay marriage group, at their victory celebration early Wednesday morning, according to the Portland Press-Herald.

Mr. Schubert, a California consultant, came to Maine to work on the campaign against gay marriage after helping overturn the same-sex marriage law in California at the polls last year.

Gay-rights advocates attempted to frame the issue in Maine as a question of equality for all families regardless of sexual orientation. Opponents argued the law would change how marriage was taught in schools.

The role of religion