Print

Maine Vote to Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Law Viewed With Disappointment, Not Surprise

Katherine Franke: Close Tally Could Lay Groundwork to Revive Measure

 

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

 

 

Media Contact: 
Public Affairs Office 212-854-2650 publicaffairs@law.columbia.edu
 
New York, November 4, 2009 – The repeal of a law that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry in Maine disappointed but did not surprise a leading expert at Columbia Law School.
 
 “I think we were all braced that this was a possibility,” said Katherine Franke, Director of the Law School’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.
 
Unofficial tallies show the repeal passed by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent in Tuesday’s balloting. Franke had expected the percentages to be closer based on recent polls.
 
“Just as we see when people of color are running for office, the polling is unreliable. People were often dishonest when asked,” Franke said. “Maybe it’s not publicly acceptable to say you are going to support the proposition, but a majority was prepared to support the proposition.”
  
But the final tally indicates opponents of same-sex marriage lack a mandate, said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general and now Director of the National State Attorneys General Program at the Law School.
 
“I think the fact that it was close same-sex marriage supporters have a lot to be pleased about,” Tierney said. “Time is clearly on the side of those who support same-sex marriage.”
 
Proclaiming that “times had changed,” Gov. John Baldacci signed into law in May a measure that would have made Maine the sixth state to allow same-sex couples to marry. That immediately sparked a move by opponents to push for a ballot measure to repeal the law.

Tierney noted that what distinguishes Maine from other states that have considered same-sex marriage is that the Legislature approved the law in question. In contrast, other states have had their same-sex marriage laws affirmed by the courts. The Legislature’s involvement, he said, likely made it more acceptable to voters than would have been the case.
 
Franke added that going through the Legislature “feels like a more democratic process, and you don’t have activist courts that are unaccountable.” At the same time, she was cautiously optimistic that would be enough to beat back what amounted to a public veto.
 
“My hope had been that the issue had been vetted, discussed openly and the Legislature represented a majority of the people in Maine,” Franke said. “But clearly they were not as representative as we had hoped.”
 
Tierney said “everyone’s exhausted” now and expects the issue to be revived in the next two to three years.
 
“I’m disappointed, but we weren’t that far behind,” Franke said. “It just means we have that much more work to do.”
 
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.