Maine Voters Reject Gay Marriage Law

Early reporting indicated voters were leaning toward upholding the state's law permitting gay and lesbian unions, but the tide shifted as returns trickled in.

Maine voters on Tuesday repealed a state law granting same-sex couples the right to marry, defeating an effort by gay activists who hoped the state would become the first to approve gay marriage at the polls.

As the ballot counting continued well past midnight, the margin continued to grow - with 52.7 percent of voters in favor of the repeal - and the Associated Press called the contest in favor of gay-marriage foes shortly before 1 a.m.

The measure was passed by the Maine legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. John Baldacci in May but had not taken effect, pending the outcome of the vote.

Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage, in 2003, under a landmark decision issued by the state’s high court. Connecticut courts legalized gay marriage there in 2008, and then Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine followed earlier this year, either through legislation or court rulings. Same-sex marriage was briefly legal in California, until 52 percent of voters approved a constitutional ban last year.

Rea Carey, executive director of the nonprofit National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said a vote to uphold the law in Maine would have bolstered efforts to pass similar laws in New York, New Jersey and other states.

A loss, she added, would not stop the effort. "It means we have more work to do. We'll learn from it and move on."

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