Maine poll: Same-sex marriage may be headed toward approval

Two grooms wedding cake topper

Speaking of Maine (as I seem to be doing obsessively since Olympia Snow’s retirement), Mainers may be poised to become the first ever to legalize same-sex marriage by a vote of the people.

Five states — including Minnesota, as you know  — are likely to have issues of marriage equality on the ballot this year. But in all but Maine, the question has been framed by those opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to marry. And a recent poll suggests that in Maine, advocates of marriage equality are ahead. Here’s a quick overview of the five, relying on an Associated Press roundup of last week.

Minnesota and North Carolina are similarly situated. In both states, same-sex marriage has never been legal, but opponents of the idea have arranged referenda to put the ban into the state constitutions so that it will be harder for the courts to strike down the bans. North Carolina will vote on May 8, as part of its primary. Minnesota will vote in November. But same-sex marriage will remain illegal in both states however the vote comes out.

In Maryland and Washington State, same-sex marriage has recently been legalized by the Legislatures (with signatures by the governors). Opponents are currently gathering signatures to put the issue on the ballot in hopes of overturning the new laws. The petition drive is still under way, and I haven’t seen any polling on how those states might vote if the referenda make it to the ballots.

Maine is in a separate category. The Legislature legalized same-sex marriage in 2009 (with a signature by the governor). But opponents organized a referendum to repeal the law, which put implementation on hold. And in the 2010 referendum, voters did repeal it by a margin of 53-47 percent. Advocates of marriage equality believe that sentiment has shifted in favor and successfully petitioned to have the question on the ballot again this year.

Public Policy Polling last week released a Maine poll that covered the question and reported its results thus:

It looks like Maine voters will reverse their 2009 decision and legalize gay marriage in the state this fall. 54% think that gay marriage should be legal to only 41% who think it should be illegal. And when we asked about the issue using the exact language voters will see on the ballot this fall, they say they’re inclined to support the referendum by a 47-32 margin.

There’s some indication that the exact ballot language is confusing people a little at this point. Only 67% of those who support gay marriage in general say they’ll vote yes while 12% say they’ll not and 21% are not sure. At the same time just 60% of those who oppose gay marriage generally say they’ll vote against the proposed referendum, while 24% say they’ll vote for it and 16% are not sure. My guess is at the end of the day voters will see this as a straight referendum on gay marriage regardless of what the language on the ballot says — and the 54/41 number bodes well for pro-equality voters.

Republicans’ opinions are pretty much the same as they were in 2009. But Democrats’ support for gay marriage has increased slightly, from 71% to 78%. And more importantly independents have gone from voting against gay marriage 52/46 three years ago to now supporting it by a 57/36 margin.

Different language

One last note: In most cases around the country, when same-sex marriage has been on the ballot, it has been put there by opponents of same-sex marriage who used ballot language that has been developed by opponents and has never been defeated. Here’s that language, which is how it will appear on the Minnesota ballot:

Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.

In Maine, the language was developed by same-sex marriage advocates. It reads:

Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, and that protects religious freedom by ensuring that no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?

Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 03/12/2012 - 11:05 am.

    Judging by the polls

    This won’t be the last.

  2. Submitted by John Edwards on 03/12/2012 - 11:21 am.

    Depends on the wording

    The importance of question wording has been long recognized by pollsters.

    For example, the Pew Center asked “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married? A majority (53 percent) responded it should be “legal.” But another Pew survey conducted just weeks earlier found less support for gay marriage when it asked, “Do you strongly favor, favor, oppose, or strongly oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally?” This seems to be asking the same idea, but it is not. This question is about “allowing” gays and lesbians to marry, not whether those marriages should be “illegal.” This change in the question wording dropped support for same-sex marriage from a majority to 45 percent (versus 46 percent who oppose same-sex marriage).

    When the Alliance Defense Fund (which opposes gay marriage) worded its question: Should marriage be defined as only a union between one man and one woman?, 62 percent of the respondents agreed. That language is similar to what will be on the Minnesota ballot, which
    would seem to bode well for its passage.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 03/12/2012 - 11:44 am.

    The foes of same sex marriage are fighting a bridge-burning retreat. Even with DOMA in place, it’s not good enough because it can be easily reversed by the next crop of politicians. The removal of a provision of a constitution will take years to achieve.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/12/2012 - 12:38 pm.


    “…ensuring that no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?”

    That’s the law now. People don’t need a church to get married. Why don’t you people just be straight (no pun intended) with the voters and say the opposite of the anti-gay marriage language? “Marriage between either same sex or opposite sex couples shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.”

    Too honest I suppose.

  5. Submitted by Rich Crose on 03/12/2012 - 12:39 pm.

    Follow the Money

    Two incomes plus no children equal financial clout. The Gay community has become the richest demographic in America.

    Corporations and politicians are finding that out. Even though they don’t care about people, they care about money.

    Do they really care if the batter is left-handed or right-handed after he hits the game winning home run?

  6. Submitted by Steve Rose on 03/12/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    If only we made policy and law by polling

    Since we don’t make policy and law by polling, Skip Humphrey was never the Governor of Minnesota. The voters chose him a distant third, despite the best efforts of the Star-Tribune pollsters.

    Speaking of wordsmithing by pollsters and ballot questions authors, that Maine ballot is a gem: “Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, …” It is tantamount to asking voters if hunting licenses should be issued. Yes, everyone knows that hunting licenses authorize killing, but why raise the objects of guns and blood, when we are trying to get voters to simply approve the issuance of “licenses”.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/12/2012 - 01:31 pm.

    Argument against state approved same sex “marriage”

    Normally standing solidly behind a state’s right to make it’s own laws, the problem I have with states (I don’t happen to live in) approving homosexual “marriage” is the one history has taught me.

    Given the tortured mobuis strip the US Congress has made of Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the US Constitution (the Commerce Clause), these few states making their counter culture attacks upon science, human biology and common sense law only guarantee this unappealing battle will continue, and only get nastier.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/12/2012 - 01:41 pm.

    Unspoken message

    Language makes a difference, as Mr. Tester illustrates. Were the issue on the November ballot phrased as he suggests, the outcome might be significantly different – and I’m not knowledgeable enough about Minnesota to know whether that “difference” would be in favor or opposed. The current language of the proposed amendment certainly makes it easier for the uninformed or undecided to vote “no” than “yes.” Genuine opponents of same-sex marriage will vote for the amendment no matter how it’s worded, and those in favor of same-sex marriage will vote against the proposed amendment regardless of its wording. It’s those folks who aren’t sure, or who’ve never really thought about it who are most likely to be swayed by the choice of words.

  9. Submitted by jerry hernandez on 03/12/2012 - 09:15 pm.

    Homosexuality is normal and biological

    The National Library of Medicine pubs confirm that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced in the first trimester of pregnancy, morally neutral, immutable, neither contagious nor learned, bearing no relation to an individuals ability to form deep and lasting relationships, to parent children, to work or to contribute to society.

    From the American Psychological Association: homosexuality is normal; homosexual relationships are normal.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have endorsed civil marriage for same-sex couples because marriage strengthens mental and physical health and longevity of couples, and provides greater legal and financial security for children, parents and seniors.

    America’s premier child/mental health associations endorse marriage equality.

    • Submitted by Neal Krasnoff on 03/13/2012 - 06:42 am.

      Appeal to authority

      doesn’t make a legitimate argument. Tell us, Mr. Hernandez, the detailed account how homosexuality suddenly became “normal” at the American Psychological Association in 1973.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 03/13/2012 - 09:19 am.

      Oh, come on!

      “The National Library of Medicine pubs confirm that sexual orientation is natural, biologically induced in the first trimester of pregnancy…”

      That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. Please, please, I beg; favor us with a link to the source of your information that it may be exposed to the inspection it so badly requires.

      “From the American Psychological Association: homosexuality is normal; homosexual relationships are normal.” Science, human biology and common sense notwithstanding, of course. How could something like that happen?

      “In April 1972, The Washington Post reported that the 15,000-member American Psychiatric Association had been taken over by “a group of young dissidents” who thought it was the APA’s responsibility to speak out on the controversial social issues of the day, including racism, war, and treatment of gay men and lesbians.”

      “Before taking its historic vote in 1973, the APA’s board had edited the proposed resolution on homosexuality. Language describing homosexuality as a “normal variant of human sexuality” was struck.”

  10. Submitted by Brusta Smith on 03/22/2012 - 07:14 am.


    I have nothing against it for several reasons:
    Marriage benefits should be available to all couples.
    Homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle nowadays with most evidence strongly supporting biological causation.
    It doesn’t hurt society or anyone in particular.
    Denying these marriages is a form of minority discrimination.
    And finally, the only thing that should matter in marriage is love.

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