Ooops! They did it again. For the 30th time, the people of a state in our country voted against allowing same-sex marriages. Disappointing? Of Course! A Set-back? Yes! An Earth-shattering Loss? Not Really! Maine was different and there are lessons that can and should be learned from there. First we have to remember that Maine was unique in that it was the first time that gay marriage was made legal through a law passed in the legislature, and not by a court ruling. With some legislative bravery, this could be a HUGE difference. Because it was in Maine, the referendum that was voted upon is basically the equivalent to a Governor's veto. The referendum could be overturned by the legislature when they meet next. The question is, will they? It would require a lot of political capital and bravery to overturn the will of the people they represent, especially when the margin was 6% which is not necessarily small.
Of note, should be that at first glance, it appeared that we were going to win and we didn't. The reason of our early optimism, was that the first precincts to get counted were primarily the cities, towns and suburbs. When the rural votes came in later that had to be hand-counted, is when we lost. To me, that tells a lot about the theory that, "to know us is to love us," and people who know self-identifying people in the LGBT community, tend to vote with us, or at least not against us. That is what Pride is all about. Having pride in yourself and being out and self-identifying is hugely important. It is also hugely scary and granted in some places even dangerous. That is why having a vibrant Pride Center that can be a galvanizing place for our community, a place to come together and fellowship and learn and grow and educate our cities, is so important. Maine shows us that it is also important especially in the smaller towns that the Centers need to be a voice and advocate for our community. Youngstown may be the 5th or so largest city in Ohio, but we have a lot of smaller communities surrounding us, and we need to be their voice and advocate as well.
There was some good news both locally and nationally in yesterdays election as well. In Akron, they just elected their first openly lesbian city official. The state of Washington's voters ratified a law giving their over 6,000 registered domestic partners the same state rights as married couples. Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Houston Texas supported and voted in gay mayors, (although the Houston mayor will face a run-off because of the close vote count.) We also still have marriage bills under consideration in New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. with a federal challenge to California's Prop 8 coming in January. It is not the time to be defeated or give up, but to energize and move forward. We as an individual, a community, and a Pride Center, can make the difference and bring change. We have to, it's the right thing to do.