A few years ago, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders — a Boston-based legal advocacy organization — launched a "6 x 12" campaign to secure marriage rights for gay couples across New England by 2012. Gay marriage is legal in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It's currently up for debate in the Rhode Island state legislature. And, despite a crushing defeat at the ballot box in 2009, it's still a possibility that Maine could bring up the rear in 2012. We won't know for sure until early next year.
"Currently there is no plan to put marriage on the ballot in 2012," says Equality Maine executive director Betsy Smith, responding to floating rumors about plans to launch another referendum campaign next year. She admits that same-sex marriage advocates want to achieve full equality "at the soonest possible point" — indeed, some rhetoric, including a speech at the Equality Maine banquet in late March, has led supporters to believe that 2012 is a sure thing. She says Equality Maine does plan to ramp up its campaign work this summer, hoping to have 100,000 conversations with Mainers about gay marriage, identifying supporters along the way.
"We would like to win marriage by 2012," she says. "But if we haven't moved enough voters . . . then it won't be 2012."
Plus, Smith acknowledges that "more progressive voters" — i.e., more young voters, more voters who support same-sex marriage rights — turn out in a presidential election. But they won't count on this strategy. After President Barack Obama announced that the federal government would no longer support the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the Associated Press reported that "conservatives are vowing to make same-sex marriage a front-burner election issue, nationally and in the states . . . [and] would now expect the eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee to highlight the marriage debate as part of a challenge to Obama, putting the issue on equal footing with the economy." Multiple polls have shown that voters do not prioritize the issue.
But national politics take a back seat to one simple consideration, Smith says: "We're not going back to the ballot until we know we can win."
: This Just In
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