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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.

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It also became a religious issue. The Catholic Church was heavily involved in the veto effort at the polls, as were Christian groups from around the country. While research suggests Maine is one of the least religious states in the US, analysts say the religious argument held sway with voters.

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The vote was confirmation that the voting public is still uneasy with expanding marriage laws to include gay and lesbian couples.

Many gay-rights groups have long opposed putting the same-sex marriage question – which they consider a civil rights issue – to a popular vote. In California, these groups are closely watching a challenge in federal court to Proposition 8, the voter-approved ballot initiative that banned gay marriage there. The plaintiffs in the case say the California ban is a violation of the Constitution's equal protection clause. Many expect that case to eventually make its way to the US Supreme Court in ruling that could decide the issue of gay marriage for the country.

What happened in Washington State?

While Maine was a setback for the gay-rights movement, Washington State voted Tuesday to give gay and lesbian domestic partners all the same rights as married couples. While the measure there stopped short of legalizing same-sex marriage, many see it as important step for gay rights as it extends the state’s legal protections for same-sex couples.

The results in Maine may spur the gay-rights movement to turn away from battles at the state level and focus more on the courts or repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which is also being challenged in court.

"We're here for the long haul," Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Protect Maine Equality, told supporters of Maine's gay marriage law, according to the Associated Press. "We'll be here fighting. We'll be working. We will regroup."

See also:

At stake in Maine vote: a potential first for gay marriage

Gay rights advocates win a round on California’s Prop. 8

Gay marriage foe announces its next big target: Iowa

Obama 'supports repeal’ of same-sex marriage ban, lawyers say

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