Tuesday night may not have ended with the song-filled tiki-torch rally of 2008, but there was still a palpable sense of elation on campus as the results rolled in. Each victory was marked by celebratory shrieks emanating from first-year bricks and from a packed Jack Magee’s Pub. The revelry continued through Wednesday morning, culminating when over a hundred community members gathered in Smith Union to commemorate Maine’s newly-minted status as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. Three years ago, Maine voted “Yes” on 1 as well, but to an opposite end: the 2009 referendum rejected the legalization of same-sex marriage 53 to 47 percent, the exact margin by which the 2012 ballot measure passed. This year, in place of the dejected and disappointed sentiment of 2009, there was wedding cake to be had.
The passage of Question 1 is a major step forward for Maine and a milestone in the fight for equal rights. We are proud to live in a state that has sent the strong—though much overdue—message to the rest of the country that same-sex couples are entitled to equal privileges and protections under the law. We hope the success of Question 1—and of like-minded measures in Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota—will galvanize cultural change on a national scale. When same-sex marriage was rejected the first time around, the Orient’s editorial board noted the disappointment felt by many students, writing that it felt like “the eyes of the country” had been on Maine in the months leading up to the election, and that we had failed to fulfill the hopeful expectations for the measure. When the spotlight returned to our state this November, Mainers sent a new message to the rest of the nation: same-sex marriage was approved, and Angus King became the state’s independent senator-elect.
King ran as an independent on a moderate platform, and pledged to put the interests of his Maine constituents above all else in Washington. He positioned himself as a remedy to the bitter partisanship that has gripped Congress, promising throughout his campaign to serve as a bridge between Democrats and Republicans and pursue compromise rather than perpetuate conflict. King will be a junior Senator, and has much work to do in Washington if he intends to make good on his promises to Mainers. But his resounding victory—King won a six-person race with over 50 percent of the vote—is in itself a head start, strongly conveying to Congress that Maine prioritizes consensus and finding common ground.
We are optimistic about King’s ability to ease partisan tensions in the Senate, and hope that he heeds his own advice. In one lecture to his “Leaders and Leadership” class, Bowdoin News reported, King cited Winston Churchill in a lesson on pragmatism in politics. Churchill once said, “Never again will I be in the position of being responsible unless I have the power to make it happen.”— “That’s a good principle,” King told his class. “Somebody’s going to want you to take responsibility for something but they won’t give you the power to carry it through. Don’t do it.” The people of Maine have entrusted King with the power to bring about the change his campaign promised, and while he cannot do it alone, we expect he will apply the same pragmatism to Congress that he displayed as governor.
On Tuesday, Maine raised its expectations for the integrity of civil rights and elected officials. The election was a clear victory for equality and the spirit of bipartisanship, and the rest of the country is taking note. King said as much in his acceptance speech, when he suggested that the state’s motto “Dirigo,” I lead, could now be changed to “Dirigimus,” we lead. On Wednesday, we woke up to a Maine one step closer to the way life should be.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Claire Aasen, Erica Berry, Linda Kinstler, and Eliza Novick-Smith.