SETBACK

What Does Maine's Loss Mean for Gay Rights?

Tuesday night, Maine became the 31st state to block same-sex marriage by a public referendum, a defeat that has gay-rights advocates scrambling to rethink their national strategy. They outspent their opponents two to one in a libertarian state thought to be friendly to the idea of same-sex marriage, but the law was struck down by 53 percent of the vote. States that did decide to allow same-sex marriage this year—Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont—did so through legislation and the courts, not public referendums. Maine was the perfect opportunity to prove that voters could stop rejecting marriage equality at the ballot box. Now that it’s backfired, gay-rights advocates are looking toward their movement’s next battlefields: New Jersey and New York, where Democratic governors were pressing lawmakers to pass same-sex marriage legislation, and California, where voters approved a ban on gay marriage last year. Some think the state-by-state battle is doomed, and federal legislation is the only way to ensure marriage equality. “The state-by-state strategy that looked clever a few years ago has run its course,” said a former adviser to President Bill Clinton on gay issues. “The states that were easy to get have been gotten.”