Making Sense of Maine

By Matthew Cooper

I'll confess to being surprised by the result in Maine. Having spent a lot of time in the state, where my brother has lived for decades, I thought its libertarian streak would prevail. After all, this wasn't a court ruling being overturned by the electorate. The legislature had passed the gay marriage measure and the governor had enthusiastically signed it. Granted the law wouldn't take effect without the ballot measure, but still you had a big chunk of the political class behind the deal, and you have a state where the medical marijuana measure passed overwhelmingly on the same day. (Who were the pro-pot anti-gay marriage voters, I wonder?)

In any event, I think it is a big defeat in the short run for the gay-marriage movement. In the long run, it's hard to think that the expansion of rights won't prevail. As gay marriage becomes the norm in those states permitting it, the arguments against it will probably fade. Has gay marriage undermined what Miss America contestant Carrie Prejan famously called "opposite marriage"? Have divorce rates been affected, or new marriage formation? As it becomes virtually normal, to paraphrase my colleague, Andrew Sullivan, the practice will gain clout. But for now the defeat of the referendum in Maine not long after California suggests a real firewall for gay marriage. There are legal suits to overturn California's referendum, and perhaps they'll prevail. But in the meantime, the marriage movement seems stalled even as gay acceptance--Houston's on its way to having a gay mayor, as of last night--seems, thankfully, more widespread than ever.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/11/making-sense-of-maine/29618/