Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sexual Orientation-Related Referenda in Maine, 1995-2009

    Third in a series of maps showing how people vote on gay rights. Question 1 was put on the ballot by voter initiative in 2009 to repeal the legislature's act to grant marriages licenses without regard to the applicant's gender.
    It passed by a small margin: 266,324 to 238,595.
    In 2012, a similar issue will be up before the voters of Maine, essentially a repeal of this repeal, returning the right of Mainers to marry the ones they love.
    Want to get involved? Contact Equality Maine.

    But 2009 wasn't the first time Maine voters confronted an anti-gay referendum at the polls. On four separate occasions, the voters were asked to consider whether it should be legal to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
    In 1995, the first of these initiatives asked voters broadly whether any new classification ought to be permitted in the anti-discrimination laws of Maine. In the preceding years, a number of cities and towns in Maine had added sexual orientation protections, and this provoked a vicious response culminating in this voter initiative. Although broadly worded, the referendum was largely understood to be about sexual orientation.
    Maine voters rejected this initiative, 221,562 (53%) to 193,938.

     Then, in 1997, the Maine legislature took the step of advancing civil rights protections to all of Maine's citizens, becoming the fifth state in New England to do so. This move also provoked a response from the same folks who got a "people's veto" on the ballot for 1998 to repeal the new law.
    This time, they got their way--it passed by a slim margin in a special election: 145,452 (51%) to 138,153. You can see that the map has a lot more orange and red in it, and there is a more pronounced gradient from the coastal and Southern areas to the rural North.

    The passage of the 1998 initiative in turn provoked a couple of interesting responses. First, the legislature introduced (and got passed) a constitutional amendment so that a voter initiative wouldn't be made into a special election, it would be rolled into the next primary or general election.
    The second reaction was that the legislature again passed a law protecting the civil rights of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, but built into the law that it would need to pass voter approval to become law. This legislative initiative was voted on in 2000, but failed by a tiny margin: 318,846 (50%) to 314,012. You can see in this map that approval increased in the Central part of the State, while the coastal regions became slightly less favorable to gay civil rights. Hmmmm.

    The legislature took a break on the issue for a few years, but in 2005, again enacted protections for people based on sexual orientation, and this time also gender identity. Again, there was an initiative to veto the legislature's action, leading to an incredibly heated (and expensive) campaign. This time, however, the voters rejected the initiative, finally allowing the law to go into effect, the last state in New England to achieve this status. The final tally was 181,926 (45%) in favor, and 223,274 opposed. You can see in this map that the coastal regions became more supportive of civil rights again, while some of the central regions regressed a bit.

    Help make the 2012 election look more like 2005! Lend a hand to Equality Maine.

1 comment:

  1. I did my own analysis of the 2009 failure, using 2005 as a benchmark. What leaped out at me was there was a dramatic disparity in turnout.

    Overall turnout was up 40.34% from 2005. But when you break that down, you see that our side increased turnout by only 19.95%. By contrast, the Yes on 1 side increased its turnout by an amazing 65.37%. This disparity existed in every single county. That is why we lost. Not because of this or that TV ad, but because of a failure of get-out-the-vote by No on 1. Fortunately in 2012, GOTV will be much less of an issue since turnout will be high regardless, and many of the 150,000 added voters will be on our side.