- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gay rights advocates took some comfort in small victories from Tuesday’s elections after suffering a major defeat in Maine, where voters rejected a state same-sex marriage law.

Wherever else gay issues or candidates appeared on the ballot, they appeared to fare well, although a key vote in Washington state was still too close to call.

Washington’s Referendum 71, which would affirm an “everything but the name marriage” domestic partners law passed by the Legislature in May, was leading by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Only about half the votes had been counted as of Wednesday afternoon because the election was conducted almost entirely by mail.

Analysts expect the domestic partners law to prevail because much of the uncounted vote was based in King County, home of Seattle and a liberal stronghold.

“Although we are bitterly disappointed in Maine, we are also able to see what appears to be a silver lining in Washington where the people of that state joined together and have likely voiced a ‘yes’ for equality,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

Washington’s domestic partners law, signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire, never took effect because opponents quickly gathered enough signatures to bring it before the voters for a referendum. The law provides state-registered, same-sex couples with the same benefits given to married couples.

In Michigan, voters also rejected a referendum in Kalamazoo that would have overturned a city ordinance adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes in the city’s anti-discrimination laws.

The vote wasn’t close, with the referendum going down to defeat 62 percent to 38 percent. The ordinance, passed by the City Commission in June, covered housing, employment and public accommodations.

Meanwhile in the nation’s fourth-largest city, Annise Parker was the top vote-getter in Houston’s mayoral election, which puts her in a runoff next month with Gene Locke. If she prevails, Ms. Parker, who is a lesbian, would become the first open homosexual elected to lead a major U.S. city.

Still, all eyes Tuesday had been on Maine, where gay rights activists had hoped to overturn years of defeat on the campaign trail.

Voters there approved Question 1 thereby rejecting the state’s same-sex marriage law. With 95 percent of the precincts counted, Question 1 led 53 percent to 47 percent.

Although same-sex marriage has been legalized in five states - four of them in New England - it has been done through judicial and legislative action but never by popular vote.

By contrast, opponents of same-sex marriage have won passage of constitutional amendments affirming traditional marriage in 30 states. Gay marriage also went down to defeat in California with the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008.

Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization of Marriage, had predicted a tie in the polls would translate to a win at the ballot box. Her reasoning was that many voters would tell pollsters one thing and do another in order to appear more politically correct.

Question 1 also benefited from the presence of Frank Schubert, who ran the successful campaign for California’s Proposition 8. The Yes on 1 campaign centered on the impact of same-sex marriage law on public schools, contending that it would result in teachers presenting such marriages as normal and healthy.

Advocates appeared to have the momentum behind them earlier in the year.

Same-sex marriage passed in Iowa, via the state Supreme Court, and New Hampshire and Maine via the legislatures. New York and New Jersey were considering similar bills and are expected to bring them up again in the next legislative session.

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