Friday, November 6, 2009

Maine, marriage and moving forward

As activists here in New York State prepare for the possible vote on marriage next Tuesday in the state Senate, the movement for LGBT rights is hopefully taking a second look at its strategy to secure nuptials for gays and lesbians in the wake of the crushing defeat it experienced earlier this week in Maine.

Slightly more than 53 percent of Maine voters backed a referendum that overturned their state's law that allowed same-sex couples to marry. Forty-seven percent of voters opposed the measure, but the arguably larger than expected margin of victory unfortunately suggests marriage for same-sex couples remains a highly controversial issue the majority of voters in this country are not ready to support.

A handful of states--Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont and soon-to-be New Hampshire--allow gays and lesbians to marry. More than 30 others, however, explicitly ban nuptials for gays and lesbians. This stark reality begs the question:
Has the marriage movement been effective?

Activists will almost certainly point out the five states that either allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot (or will soon allow them to do so) and conclude yes, but other questions remain in the wake of Maine, Proposition 8 in California and other referenda. These include whether activists should look to Washington to extend nuptials to gays and lesbians, whether marriage is actually an effective means to ensure equality for same-sex couples and whether the socio-economic demographic of those who lead the movement dictate the marriage agenda and its direction.

Maine was a sobering wake-up call for both marriage activisits and the broader movement. And they must continue to ask these difficult questions as it tries to move forward from this gut-wrenching defeat.

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