Next stop: marriage

By TONY GIAMPETRUZZI  |  June 8, 2007

“We know civil unions don’t work in a real world, only marriage works in a real world. And New Hampshire is different,” says Huntress, noting that, like New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont, New Hampshire actually started with a push for marriage.

“But the message we are hearing is that is all sounds very final, like ‘hooray, we got civil unions.’ I suspect New Hampshire couples will find that they also will be denied some rights (like they have in Connecticut and New Jersey), but it’s interesting how that’s playing out.”

Smith also notes that Mainers shouldn’t feel too bad that New Hampshire beat us again.

“For the first time in decades, New Hampshire has become a lot bluer. Plus, when they passed their non-discrimination law in 1997 they didn’t have to worry about it being repealed because they don’t have a referendum process,” says Smith. “That means they could get started working on marriage ten years ago, and that’s what they’ve been doing. This didn’t come out of nowhere. If we had passed our non-discrimination law, and there was no repeal process, we would have been able to work on this issue since 1998.”

Changing opinions
That doesn’t mean all the work has been for naught. Huntress and Smith agree that the informational campaigns waged around non-discrimination bills in 1997, 2000, and 2005 nicely dovetail what they call an all-out campaign for marriage right now.

“We are in a campaign — talking to voters, coalition partners, legislators — we are in campaign mode, but it’s just an education campaign,” says Smith. “Whether it’s two months, two years, or five years, whether we go through the legislature or through litigation, we know that we have to change public opinion in order to win either way. We don’t want to be a state that just waits for a court to have an opinion.”

It should also be noted that, should gay marriage in Maine hit the radar in the short term, one likely opponent, the Christian Civic League’s Michael Heath, might not face down activists.

In a tome sent out to true believers last week, Heath said his group was no longer focused on trampling gays — and is now going after gamblers.

“This is the first time since 1994 that this Christian ministry has allowed her deep concerns over sexual morality to drop from its top priority ranking,” wrote Heath.

But Huntress is wary.

“If we sat around worrying about what he was doing we wouldn’t get anything done. I guess they’re going to focus on anti-gambling, but are they coming back? Of course they are!” she said. “It doesn’t change our focus, which is being proactive, talking about our issue, and framing the message ourselves. They had free rein for many, many years, and we’re changing that.”

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