With election day approaching, the Mainers United for Marriage campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the state of Maine is working hard to rally the support of the Bowdoin community.
If accepted, the ballot measure, could make Maine the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. A similar ballot measure was defeated in 2009, mustering only 47 percent of the vote.
“This is the first time that a proactive marriage ballot measure is being put before voters in the history of our country,” said Timothy Diehl, board president of Equality Maine, the organization spearheading the Mainers United campaign. “LGBT issues have never been proactively decided by voters, it’s very exciting.”
In a letter to President Mills this week, Bowdoin Queers and Allies (Q&A) solicited a formal endorsement from the administration.
“We encourage [President Mills] once again to take a public stand on marriage equality, whether as a private citizen or as the president of the state’s premiere college, by submitting an editorial endorsing the passage of Question One to local and state newspapers,” said Q&A in their letter.
Five Bowdoin students are currently working as interns with Equality Maine. They are tasked with bringing awareness about the initiative to Bowdoin.
“Right now our main goal is to get people to vote early,” said intern Jordan Lantz ’15.
Lantz and other interns will bring students to vote early on October 24 and 29, and November 1; Lantz explained that early voting benefits the campaign because it allows organizers to calculate support and estimate how much they still need to meet their goal before November 6.
Intern Jack Wostrel ’15 organized a kick-off party at Howell House on October 4.
“We tried to get 50 people in the door which we far surpassed,” said Wostrel. However, he added that they fell short in meeting their goal of 50 early vote pledges by about ten pledges.
In addition, the Bowdoin College Democrats have worked in collaboration with Equality Maine by recruiting volunteers, putting up posters, and coordinating shuttles to polling booths on election days.
“I think we’re upholding marriage as an institution and we’re saying everyone should be able to partake in it if they find the right partner,” said Judah Isseroff ’13, co-president of the Bowdoin Democrats.
The Bowdoin Democrats also sought to raise awareness about the vote by inviting relevant speakers to campus.
“We’re bringing Mary Bonauto, who is one of, if not the, leading legal advocate for marriage equality in this country,” said Isseroff. Bonauto will speak at 7:30 p.m. Monday night in the Visual Art Center’s Kresge Auditorium.
College volunteers are not surprised by Bowdoin’s positive reception to the initiative.
“This is a tough campus to be against gay marriage on,” said Isseroff.
Even so, the liberal atmosphere at Bowdoin does not speak for the whole state.
“Bowdoin is great in that there’s a lot of support for it here,” said Lantz. “However it’s not exactly indicative of Maine itself.”
The Protect Marriage Maine campaign is working in opposition to Equality Maine is, an organization working to prevent any amendments to the traditional definition of marriage.
“All the social science research says that the ideal environment for children is to be raised in households with a mom and a dad,” said Bob Emrich, chair of Protect Marriage Maine. “It’s not just adding another person to a marriage, it’s redefining the very meaning of marriage and the potential consequences [of same-sex marriage] are too great a risk.”
Despite the support Equlity Maine has received on campus, organizers worry about students keeping their word in the polling booths.
“Until the final vote is counted we know we have to continue to inform people about why the issue is important and how by supporting equality they’re supporting all Maine families,” said Diehl.