April 9, 2012
By Jacob Combs
We’re still several months out from the ballot contests over marriage equality that will certainly take place in Maine and likely in Washington and Maryland as well, but signs continue to point to a significant first for the marriage movement this year with its first ever win at the ballot box. Polls have looked positive in Maine for several months now, and a new poll released late last week by the Maine People’s Resource Center shows almost 58 percent support for marriage equality, with 43 percent of respondents expressing “strong support.” Forty percent expressed an intention to vote no. Maine’s vote to repeal marriage in 2009 was a difficult blow to advocates in the state, but they seem to have laid the ground for a successful education and engagement campaign leading up to this November. (If you haven’t written to Landmark Theaters asking them to screen the excellent documentary “Question One,” which tells both sides of the 2009 vote, please do so!)
In an article today, the Seattle Times takes a look at the changing tactics for both marriage supporters and opponents in Washington state:
There was a time when gay rights supporters fought fire with fire, when they staged operations with names like “Bigot Busters” — showing up in parking lots, fairs and festivals — places where their opponents were collecting signatures with the goal of mixing it up.
Now, as the campaign to put same-sex-marriage legislation on Washington state’s November ballot gets under way, those wishing to repeal it are making petitions available in hundreds of churches, businesses and private homes across the state, while their opponents have turned not to parking lots and community events, but to the Internet, hoping to “log” as many supporters as the other side can collect signatures.
According to their website, Preserve Marriage Washington, the group spearheading the efforts to repeal the marriage law, have so far collected 5,680 of the 150,000 needed before June 6 to get Referendum 74 on the ballot. As the Seattle Times reports, however, the organization’s campaign manager, Joseph Backholm, says the campaign quickly ran out of its first 50,000 petitions, so the website’s low number is probably a result of not being updated. Complicating that effort is another petition drive for Initiative 1192, which is essentially a mini-DOMA law. That drive is being led by Protect Marriage Washington, which is encouraging members to sign both petitions, while Preserve Marriage Washington is asking its members to sign only the Referendum 74.
Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the pro-equality organization Washington United for Marriage, said that his group would be running a positive campaign, and is seeking to gather 120,000 postcards in support of the marriage law to match the 120,000 signatures the law’s opponents are trying to collect.
In Maryland, which will likely be the site of a much closer ballot campaign, the state’s highest court heard arguments last week in a divorce case filed by two women who were married in California. According to their lawyers, judges in the state have been inconsistent in their rulings on divorces between same-sex couples, with some allowing the divorces to proceed and others, like the one assisgned to the women’s case, ruling that marriages which are not valid under Maryland law cannot be dissolved in the state. Maryland has no specific rule against recognizing out-of-state marriages between gay and lesbian couples, and has historically recognized marriages from other states even if they would not be legal in Maryland itself.