March 17, 2010

Vote to overturn same-sex marriage gains lead

The Bay

11:45 p.m.

With 67 percent of precincts reporting, Yes on 1 supporters -- who want to overturn a recently enacted law permitting same-sex marriage -- build a sizable lead.

10:30 p.m.

PORTLAND -- The polls have closed and the ballots are being counted for a full slate of referendums, including a hard-fought battle on same-sex marriage that was closely watched by the rest of the nation.

Polling places closed at 8 p.m., and Maine's top election official said voter turnout will be higher than he originally projected because of "intense interest" in the referendums.

As results began to be reported, both sides had said they expected a close battle.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the bill into law in May, but opponents of same-sex marriage gathered the signatures necessary to call for a public vote.

Veto opponents, including Baldacci, watched returns come in at the Holiday Inn By the Bay.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay resembled a party atmosphere, complete with a band, a bar and cake, as supporters of same-sex marriage awaited results of Question 1 this evening.

It was a packed house with Mainers traveling from all parts of the state as well as national media watching.

Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor said it was important for her to be at the No on 1 event to witness history. Williams, originally from California, said achieving same-sex marriage rights is not only important to Maine but the country. "I know my family, friends and colleagues out there are counting on Maine to carry the day," she said.

Jacqui Deveneau of Old Orchard Beach said she has worked at polling places during multiple elections and saw amazing turnout this year. She said people are motivated to provide equal rights for all.

"It's a no-brainer for me that people should have equal rights to marry," said Deveneau.

As supporters milled around an '80s cover band, The Awesome, played music. No on 1 campaign manager Jesse Connolly, spoke live via-satellite on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Mary Bonauto, of GLAD, told the audience that the audience that the same-sex marriage movement would not be possible without the work of gay and straight Mainers working together. Because of that, the vote "the future is bright no matter what happens tonight," she said.

Others, including Baldacci and Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree addressed the crowd, saying while it's still early in the night, the results look promising.

"I know everyone is on pins and needles and crossing everything they can," said Pingree.

Supporters of Question 1, who oppose same-sex marriage, gathered at the Eastland Park Hotel to wait for results.

A crowd of some hundred supporters of Yes on 1 broke into applause and cheers in the main ballroom of the Eastland around 9:30 p.m. following brief remarks from Frank Schubert, campaign manager.

"I'm happy to tell you at this point we are ahead of our projections in every county," said Schubert, from a small stage. "Here's to yes on Question 1."

Mary Strawn, 55 of Windham, was among the supporters.

"I have many friends in gay and lesbian relationships," said Strawn. "I don't judge them. But my Christian reality frames my definition of marriage."

If the law is upheld, Maine would be the sixth state in the country to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, and New Hampshire’s new law will take effect in January.

Couples in Maine would most likely be allowed to marry by late December if the law is upheld and if there’s not a recount, according to the governor’s office.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap originally projected that 35 percent of voting age residents would turn out at polling places. Dunlap now says it appears that the turnout is outpacing those projections.

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