Editors' Note: Guest blogger Lorri L. Jean is nationally recognized as one of the most seasoned and effective leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ("LGBT") civil rights movement. An LGBT activist for 30 years, Jean currently serves as CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, the world's largest LGBT organization.
As LGBT activists discuss how and when to restore the freedom to marry in California, dramatic events are unfolding on the other side of the country that will greatly affect our fight for marriage rights here and ultimately across the rest of America.
In May, when Maine became the fifth state to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry--after years of public education efforts and grass-roots organizing there--that great day for social justice was not the end of the story. Just as in California, right-wing forces responded by collecting enough names to almost certainly qualify a ballot measure that will ask voters to affirm or reject the civil rights of Maine's gay and lesbian citizens.
Fortunately, LGBT and allied groups began preparing to battle such an initiative many months ago. Through direct contact and conversations with tens of thousands of voters, they have already identified more than a quarter of the votes needed to win on November 3. Though the opposition is expected to be as fierce and unprincipled as usual, our seasoned and battle-tested friends in Maine believe they have the organization, experience, and momentum to build to victory this fall.
But, in the midst of all that besets us here in California, what does this seemingly far-away fight in Maine have to do with the freedom to marry in LA or Bakersfield or Redding?
The organizations that are subsidizing the current anti-gay effort in Maine are most of the same groups that were at the forefront of Yes on 8. They've even hired Frank Schubert to run their campaign; the same political operative who ran their shameful California effort (and the same groups who will be leading the opposition to our initiative, whenever it happens). Rightly so, they see this as a national battle, to which they are applying national resources. And so must we.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of a victory in Maine. Such a victory would be the first clear-cut, outright ballot box rejection of the kind of deceit, fear-mongering, anti-gay rhetoric they are sure to employ. Turning the tide there would change the landscape for all the fights to come. Yet this uphill battle will be hard to win without support and involvement from our community and our allies across the nation.
So what can those of us in California and elsewhere do to help achieve that victory?
Decisions about whether and where to give money cannot be taken lightly in these tough economic times, but the stakes are high in Maine, and even a small contribution can go a long way in a state with only 1,400,000 residents.
The anti-gay opposition is currently out-raising us by almost 3-to-1. We must help our side catch up to assure that their messages reach every voter. So please consider sending whatever you can.
If you have the time and means to volunteer, the No on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign will coordinate housing, provide training, and plug you into campaign teams.
Finally, and easiest, help spread the word. Not a lot of attention has been paid to the battle in Maine and the stakes there. We've got to help the campaign build a strong, national base of support.
Our overdue marriage rights have yet to be successfully defended at the ballot box anywhere in the country. We came closer to winning in California than anyone ever has, and we'll fight again, but Maine is now 'ground zero' in our great struggle for the American principles of liberty and justice for all. Time and the tides of history are unquestionably on our side, but we should do as much as we can to hurry history along. Maine!