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Winning marriage in Maine

The campaign's past -- and its future
By BETSY SMITH  |  August 4, 2009

eqme main

Three years ago, after winning non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, we began a journey to win protections for LGBT families. We knew our best chance for winning marriage was through the Legislature and that once we passed a bill, we would have to defend it at the polls.

So EqualityMaine and its coalition partners embarked on a strategic plan in 2006 that would position us to introduce a marriage bill in 2009 while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a referendum campaign.

Our work ramped up significantly in the last six months of 2008, particularly on election day. We set an ambitious goal of identifying 10,000 pro-marriage voters at the polls and asking each of them to sign a postcard to their legislators. On Election Day, we had 350 volunteers at polling places across the state. By 1 pm we had surpassed our goal, and by the end of the night, we had identified more than 33,000 pro-marriage voters.

With pro-LGBT majorities in both the Maine House and Senate, and that outpouring of support for marriage from so many across the state, it was clear that 2009 was our window of opportunity to win marriage in Maine.

We officially launched our marriage campaign in January 2009. We knew we had to run a legislative campaign while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a referendum campaign. So we ran an aggressive field campaign that worked side-by-side with our lobby team every step of the way. This strategy set the stage for us to surpass every benchmark we set forth in our legislative campaign plan, including:

Cosponsors Our goal was to secure 50 cosponsors of the bill; we secured 64 — one-third of the Legislature.

Public Hearing We out-numbered the opposition four-to-one and out-messaged them with highly persuasive testimony that spoke to the head and heart.

Judiciary Committee We needed seven votes — we got 11.

Senate We needed 18 votes to win. We began with 10, targeted an additional 12, and won 11 of those. The final vote was 21-13.

House We needed 76 votes to win. We began with 65 and won with 89.

Governor Baldacci made history on May 6, by becoming the first governor in the country to sign a marriage bill into law.

We have now transitioned this successful legislative campaign into a referendum campaign that must do something what no other state has done — win marriage at the polls. We hired Jesse Connolly as campaign manager; have grown our team of consultants, staff, and volunteers; and continue to identify pro-marriage voters.

But our opposition is like none we have faced in Maine. They hired the same firm that ran Prop 8 in California, the team that won by lying to voters about what marriage equality would look like. They will stop at nothing to win in Maine.

We need your help to win this campaign! Please get involved by visiting our Web site:

Betsy Smith is the executive director of EqualityMaine. She can be reached at  

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