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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
November 11, 2005

Third time's the charm: Maine voters keep equal rights law

But Texas becomes the 19th state with a marriage ban amendment

Augusta, Maine--Voters in the state rejected an attempt to repeal a gay and lesbian civil rights law, splitting the nationally-watched LGBT elections results with Texas, where voters soundly passed a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

It was the third time Maine voters had decided on an equal rights measure passed by the legislature. Like this year, a petition drive forced a 1998 law onto the ballot, where it was repealed. Two years later, lawmakers sent a replacement bill directly to the voters, who rejected it.

As the counting wrapped up on November 9, it looked as though this year�s measure was retained by a comfortable margin, 55 percent to 45 percent.

With the challenge to the law ended, Maine is now the 16th state with a gay and lesbian non-discrimination law on the books. The District of Columbia also has an equal rights law.

The new measure also makes Maine one of seven states that include transgender people in their rights laws. The others are Hawaii, which only includes gender identity in the housing discrimination measure; California; Minnesota; Rhode Island; New Mexico, and Illinois, which includes transgender people through its definition of �sexual orientation.�

�Today�s win proves that dogged, grassroots organizing can overcome the lies and smears of anti-gay zealots and the profound unfairness of having minority rights put up for a popular vote,� said Matt Forman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

In Texas, however, the atmosphere was chillier during the election, with an amendment to the state constitution passing with over 76 percent of the vote.

Texas is the 19th state to pass a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. The state�s amendment is one of a dozen that also bar recognition of other constructs for same-sex relationships, like civil unions.

The amendment in Nebraska, however, was declared unconstitutional last May by a federal judge. The case is currently on appeal.

Texas law already barred recognition of same-sex marriage.

The Star-Telegram of Dallas bemoaned the amendment�s passage.

�How does this amendment improve or correct a deficiency in state government when it was already against state law to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple?� the editorial on November 9 asked. �Will there be a decrease in the heterosexual divorce rate (which in Texas is 50 percent above the national average of 4.2 per 1,000 people) now that the �sanctity of marriage� is dictated in the Texas Constitution as a union between one man and one woman only?�

�That truly would be an accomplishment, given that the state�s divorce rate is highest among born-again Christians--the group most vocal in backing the amendment,� it continued.

The president of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, refused to view the passage of the amendment as a final defeat.

�Education is a long-term effort that cynical politics can never stop,� said Solmonese. �These amendments are part of a long-standing effort by the extreme right to eliminate any legal recognition for gay people and our families. The volunteers and hard-working team at No Nonsense in November should be proud of their work against this amendment. This fight for fairness isn�t over and we won�t give up.�

 

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