Though voters will not be casting their ballots for a historic presidency this November, the outcome of the Maine ballot could still impact policy decisions across the nation. Although Maine legalized same-sex marriage on May 6, 2009, opponents of the law gathered enough signatures to force the issue onto the November ballot, halting the law in its tracks before it could take effect as planned in September. On November 3, Maine voters will either vote "yes" on Question 1 to veto the law allowing same-sex marriage, or "no," to uphold the law as it currently stands.
While religious groups and conservatives claim to oppose same-sex marriage for the sake of preserving the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, their true motive lies in simply prohibiting the action from taking place. This upcoming vote only pertains to the view of marriage in the eyes of the law, not the eyes of the church. For citizens concerned about the right of individuals to marry, insisting on a clean-cut and comfortable definition of a term is a negligible aim. In comparison, however, the decision made by voters on Question 1 in Maine this November is anything but.
Though the legislation is pending until the upcoming vote, Maine stands alongside only five other states—Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont—that currently allow gay marriage. California formerly allowed same-sex marriage, but a majority of voters opted to support Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage. The consequences of states like California and Maine amending progress and reverting to the reactionary views of the past extend beyond their respective borders. Decisions like these carry momentum, and help shape legislative proceedings for the rest of the country.
The issue of same-sex marriage in Maine is not one that we should watch unfold from the sidelines. Last year, Brunswick Town Clerk Fran Smith stated that just under 12,000 Brunswick residents voted in the 2008 presidential election. According to Smith, more than 500 Bowdoin students cast ballots early, and an even greater number cast ballots on the day of the election. A similar turnout at this upcoming election—given our number within the voting community—would not only further shed the charge of apathy at the polls with which our generation is often attributed, but it would also provide critical votes for this crucial issue, which will surely come down to the wire.
On October 14, the Portland Press Herald reported new polling data that said 51.8 percent of Mainers were planning to vote "No" on Question 1, or were leaning in that direction. As members of a generation that recites the ideals of equality and tolerance like an unofficial mantra, we cannot stand for legislation that denies citizens their right to marry. More than that, we cannot stand for a law that considers some citizens less worthy of certain things than others. The right to marry is not a privilege to be doled out to those deemed worthy—it is a decision between two individuals, regardless of sex. Maine has already taken a step forward by legalizing same-sex marriage. We should continue to go forward, rather than go back. It is high time for this change.
Some students may be resistant to registering to vote because they don't consider themselves Maine residents. But when we crunch the numbers, it's clear: we spend more time in this state than in any other, we are true residents of Maine, and we live among Mainers who will be devastated by the consequences of a vote restricting marriage.
Though no one will be heading to Washington, turning out in droves to vote for "No" on 1 could create an equally significant legacy—one ensuring equality and the right to marry for all citizens in Maine.