Maine gay marriage ban locked in vote

The vote on whether to affirm or reject same-sex marriage in Maine remained too close to call in Tuesday’s early election returns.

With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Maine’s Question 1 had 52.44 percent in favor and 47.56 percent opposed, according to county election figures compiled by the Bangor Daily News. A vote in favor of Question 1 would overturn a law signed by Gov. John Baldacci in May that allows same-sex couples to wed.

Voter turnout in Maine was considerably higher than expected, said election officials, exceeding the 35 percent predicted originally by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Maine voters did approve a referendum that expands the conditions under which people can be prescribed medical marijuana and allows for retail dispensaries.

Elsewhere in the nation, Ohio approved casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo, ending voter opposition to bringing nonlottery gambling to Ohio. In Texas, voters passed a constitutional amendment aimed at preventing the government from taking private property purely for economic development.

The vote in Maine regarding same-sex marriage would be historic because all of the five states that now recognize same-sex marriage did so with rulings from state courts or decisions by state legislatures.

Last year, California voters overturned a court-ordered gay-marriage law by voting in favor of Proposition 8. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have won passage in all 30 states where they’ve appeared on the ballot.

“That’s why this is unlike anything that’s happened before,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which supports traditional marriage. “This is a chance for [gay-marriage supporters] to show the momentum is on their side, that Proposition 8 was a fluke.”

He added, “But I don’t think it was a fluke. I think Question 1 is going to win.”

Meanwhile, voters in Washington state considered their own people’s referendum on same-sex relationships. That referendum would overturn a law giving domestic partners the same rights and benefits as married couples, without the “marriage” moniker.

As in Maine, ballots in Washington state also included a measure that would limit increases in state spending to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Any additional spending would have to be approved by voters.

Voters in Maine rejected a similar measure in 2006, but proponents were betting that this year’s move will draw more support, given voter uneasiness with recent state and federal spending.

Washington’s measure is sponsored by Tim Eyman, a regular on the state ballot-measure scene. His measure includes a provision that would use any taxes that exceed the revenue cap to lower property taxes the next year.

Proponents argue that state legislatures have shown themselves incapable of limiting spending even in hard economic times and that, therefore, voters need to do it for them. Foes counter that the limits would place a vise on state spending that would kill jobs and economic growth.

In Ohio, proponents advertised Issue 3 as a way to increase badly needed state revenues during hard economic times. The measure levies a 33 percent fixed tax on each casino.

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