It's not official yet, but it seems like everybody's calling a win for the ballot measure that seeks to take away the rights of gays and lesbians in Maine to marry. Assuming the measure does pass, though, it will be by a very narrow margin. ---
So narrow, in fact, that the "No on 1" campaign to preserve marriage rights will not concede until absentee ballots are counted. (Personally, I'm still desperately clinging to the possibility that, by some miracle, the nation will wake up Wednesday morning to learn that a state referendum to revoke marriage rights failed for the first time ever. Call me a cockeyed optimist.
People who hate gay marriage are always crowing about how these referenda "have never lost" -- and it's true. When you leave the question of an unpopular minority's rights up to a majority vote, it's always a pretty safe bet that the minority will lose. That's why they're called a "minority", for fuck's sake.
Surprisingly, though, even though anti-marriage campaigns have been winning, it's been by very narrow margins. California's Prop. 8 won by about 4%, and, if the Maine question passes, it looks like it'll be by a similar amount
The anti-marriage forces in Maine and California have relied heavily on fallacies and distortions to get their votes. Their winning strategy is to trot out a parade of horribles: typical threats include churches losing their tax-exempt status and public school curricula undergoing big, scary changes. In short, nothing to do with marriage law.
It's tempting to think the reason marriage opponents stoop to lying is because they know they must. That is, since opposition to marriage equality has steadily dropped over the past two decades, they can no longer count on a wave of popular homophobia come November. Instead, their campaigns must hype wild speculations about unrelated issues in order to win.
Because this strategy "never loses," the anti-marriage folks conclude that there exists an overwhelmingly large majority of Americans who oppose gay marriage.
At this point, I don't think we can conclude any such thing. At most, we can conclude that there is a bare majority of Americans who are manipulable enough to be gulled by a campaign of fallacies and distortions.
It's all about the numbers in these electoral matters. And that's just the way the anti-marriage folks want it. As long as they can frame the question of marriage equality as just any old ballot measure, like a bond issue, they can perpetuate the illusion that minority rights are subject to the whims of the majority. This is clearly unconstitutional for well-established legal reasons that would be difficult to make in a 30-second TV spot.
In the end, marriage equality will prevail -- not by popular vote, but by an act of the Supreme Court. But, judging by the state of the courts, this won't happen for years. And, when it does happen, it will be followed by a flurry of blind outrage. But, eventually, the anti-gays will have to grit their teeth and deal with the fact that, in American, you cannot use the force of the law to take away another person's liberty.