Maine became the first state in the country to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. I don’t think it’s possible to over-emphasize the importance of what happened on November 6, 2012. It was a day filled with incredible anxiousness and hope. I had dinner the evening of the historic vote with a group of people, some straight and some gay. All of us felt very strongly in favor of the same sex marriage referendum question in Maine. The gay couples in attendance were partnered and had been together from 5 years to 25 years. The conversation during dinner was mostly geared around what it meant to each individual to have public recognition of his or her same-sex union. I could see the nervous conversations and pep talks throughout the restaurant.
In 2009, when the law allowing gay marriage mandated by the Maine legislature, was overturned by a 52% to 42% popular vote, it deeply affected our community. I can remember hearing the results the morning after and feeling overcome with emotion. The fact was the majority of people in the state I’d been born in and lived in my entire life had decided that my (at the time) 8 year relationship was not valued and recognized the same as my straight neighbor who’d been with their husband for 2 years. It hurt deeply. I haven’t talked to anyone who was not affected by the decision in 2009. Additionally, I felt such sadness for the leaders and hard working volunteers of that effort. I have such respect and awe for the people who were on the front lines, got kicked in the teeth, yet got back up again and moved forward. Talk about the strength of the human spirit.! These people represent courage, fortitude and commitment – just as African American activists did in the 1960’s.
After careful planning and much hard work, the referendum made it to the ballot again in 2012. There seemed to be a lot of reason to hope that this time would be different. Conversations had taken place between neighbors, and the gay community had straight allies who had become more vocal in their support, both privately and publicly. Many communities of faith were behind us as well. The time seemed right. But it’s hard to feel confident when you’ve got fresh memory of pain and disappointment. Perhaps that is how we won; we NEVER took for granted that this would be a sure thing or easy.
In 2012, because of the hard word of many people who in meaningful conversations, changed the minds of people throughout Maine, my partner of 12 years and so many other couples in this great state have the opportunity to have the legal protections and the recognition which have been granted to straight couples for centuries. It means so much not only to me, but also to our children – both of whom had considered us a family all along. I absolutely delight in seeing engagement notices popping up from couples who have been in loving committed relationships for years.
I believe we’re seeing a wave of change in this country. Nine states have legalized gay marriage and we now have a President who supports us. I want to live to see diversity in all states seen as strength; something that makes the thread holding us together as stronger. I am grateful, I am moved beyond words and I am hopeful that “the times, they are a changing”.
To read more on this topic and its effect on gay couples in Maine, click here.