Things looked good early in the evening November 3 for those who opposed Maine’s Question 1 — the referendum to overturn the state legislature’s redefinition of marriage as between two consenting adults rather than between a man and a woman. As the first state to pass such a law through its legislature without a court order, Maine represented a potential turning point for the movement. If Question 1 were defeated, it would provide further momentum and show that a legislative strategy could succeed. By contrast, a majority of voters in Maine voting to pass Question 1 would be a devastating blow not merely to same sex couples in Maine, but to the movement as a whole.
The “No On One” folks had run an excellent campaign. Unlike the campaign against California’s Proposition 8 last year, which was slow to recognize the substantial resistance to same sex marriage opponents would tap, the No On One folks ran a substantial ground game, ad campaign, and mobilization strategy. Voter turnout was heavy, which was thought to favor No On One, and early returns — from urban areas — looked very good.
Then things went sour. Enthusiasm on both sides was very high. Rural districts went overwhelming Yes on One. By the end of the night, it appeared that a majority of voters in Maine had rejected the state legislature’s effort to eliminate discrimination in marriage. You can read Adam Bink’s liveblogging (which I find heartbreaking in its straightforward reporting) here. Nate Silver (who had predicted defeat for Question 1) has some analysis here, including speculation on the possibility that there may be a “Bradley Effect”-type phenomena wrt same sex marriage. Others blame Obama for declining to invest his own political capital. But whatever the reason, the loss on Question 1 in Maine creates the possibility of what I call an “Elijah moment” — based on Kings I 19:1-14 — for the many people who have invested so much of themselves in the movement to provide the fundamental right of marriage to all.
More below . . .