Voters in Maine have voted to reverse legislation that would have legalised same sex-marriage in the US state in a referendum on the issue.
Maine was set to become the fifth state in the US to recognise same-sex marriage in May, after the measure was passed by the state Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor John Baldacci.
However, opponents to marriage equality succeeded in submitting sufficient signatures to ensure that the matter would be decided by voters in a referendum. On Wednesday, 53 percent of voters chose to veto the law and deny the state’s gay citizens the right to marry.
“This law did not threaten families; rather it was an historic step that strengthened Maine families,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
“I am angry. But more importantly, I am determined that with the anger I feel today from this outcome in Maine, we’ll rise ever stronger to demand equal treatment under the law and equal respect for our relationships in Maine, California, New Jersey, and every state of the Union.
President Obama has been slammed for his silence on the issue; critics suggesting that the President’s vocal support of the law could have swayed some voters who oppose same-sex marriage.
Author, political strategist and civil rights activist David Mixner said that the “defeat almost can be laid at the steps of the White House for their refusal to stand by our side in the battle for freedom”.
Evan Wolfson of the national advocacy group Freedom to Marry noted that: “President Obama missed an opportunity to state his position against these discriminatory attacks with the clarity and moral imperative that would have helped in this close fight.”
While Obama has called for same-sex relationships to be recognised as unions or partnerships and be given the same rights as heterosexual relationships, he does not support recognising these partnerships as “marriage”.
There was some good news as it was announced that in Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters approved a non-discrimination measure that prevents people in the city from being fired from their jobs for being openly gay or transgender.
Also, in the state of Washington a bill to provide the same state benefits that married couples enjoy to registered gay and lesbian couples appears to have been approved by voters.
“Although we are bitterly disappointed at the loss 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. Their votes will ensure that state-registered domestic partners will be fully protected under the law,” said Solmonese.