Supporters Still Optimistic After Gay Marriage Setback

Maine's repeal of a gay marriage law prompts pundits to take the long view

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Maine's election results dealt gay marriage supporters a devastating blow on Tuesday by repealing a state law allowing same-sex marriage. This closely-watched referendum was in a dead heat, raising expectations that Maine voters could be the first to express popular support for marriage equality in a statewide election. Instead, the vote is seen as an affirmation of last year's anti-gay marriage vote in California, a sobering setback for the gay rights movement.

But supporters are claiming a few victories. In Washington state, voters narrowly approved a domestic partnership measure affording gay couples equal rights (but no right to "marriage"), and voters in Kalamazoo, Michigan — no liberal bastion — overwhelmingly approved an anti-discrimination law. Many pundits are pushing long-term optimism in spite of Tuesday's defeats, arguing that support for gay rights is on the rise, particularly among younger voters. Despite setbacks, could the march toward gay marriage be inevitable?

  • Support For Gay Marriage On the Rise  At The Baseline Scenario, James Kwak says "it’s a sad day for people who believe that all couples who love each other should be allowed to marry, full stop." Despite Tuesday's setback, though, he says there is good news for gay couples. He offers a graph showing popular support for gay marriage increasing in the past ten years in all states except for Utah. "Barring a backlash even bigger than the one we’ve seen over the last ten years (during which support for same-sex marriage increased in every state except Utah), time is on the side of same-sex marriage."
  • We Lost the Battle But We'll Win the War  At The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan is "heartbroken." But he says that like civil rights, Americans will one day embrace gay rights as well. "I also know that the history of civil rights movements has many steps backward as forward, and some of those reversals actually catalyze the convictions that lead to victories," he writes. "A decade ago, the marriage issue was toxic. Now it divides evenly. Soon, it will win everywhere."
  • Younger Voters Support Gay Marriage  At Crunchy Con, Rod Dreher says the electorate just isn't ready to support gay equality yet, but likely will one day. "Do I think it always will be? No, I do not, in part because homosexuality is far more accepted by young Americans, and in part because heterosexual America has already conceded the philosophical grounds on which traditional marriage was based (which is why younger Americans are more comfortable with gay marriage). Nor do I believe that the voters are always right."
  • Marriage Is Inevitable, But Country Will Look Back In Shame  Adam Serwer says that while equal rights may be inevitable, voters shouldn't be able to negate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens. "Marriage equality is ultimately inevitable--but these referendums, which put up what should be individuals' inalienable rights up to a majority vote--nevertheless mean a great deal, as they needlessly prolong an era of inequality which this country will someday look back upon in shame."
  • Hating Gays Still Gets People to the Polls...For Now  At the Cogitamus blog, Stephen Suh says gay marriage remains a wedge issue, though not for long. "Marriage equality got the results it seems to always get: advancing in one area (Washington State, a little step) and getting beaten back in another (Maine)," he writes. "Unfortunately, hating gays is still a powerful motivation for people to get to the polls.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the people in all parts of this country who are not afforded equality before the law.  We'll win this someday."
  • In the Meantime, Why Are People's Civil Rights on a Ballot?  Like Adam Serwer, Linda Hirshman says referendums that allow voters to afford and revoke the rights of citizens should be done away with. "A thoroughly organized, heavily funded conservative movement is now securely ensconced on the political stage and has seen its tyrannical opportunity in the majoritarian vehicle of the referendum. The combination has pulled the American political system in a radical new direction the Founders actively opposed."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.