On Saturday, my staff and I went door to door in Maine to support marriage equality and oppose the anti-gay marriage referendum that will be on the ballot in Maine this November. MassEquality is asking Massachusetts residents, including legislators, to travel north to support Maine Freedom to Marry in their grassroots effort to defeat the Prop 8-like referendum taking the right to marry away from same-sex couples in that state.
Although I have done plenty of door to door for my campaigns and supporting other candidates for public office, I had never gone canvassing on marriage equality before. We were sent to Biddeford, Maine, an old mill town 30 minutes south of Portland.
While there is always a little trepidation when beginning door to door, it became routine very quickly. The question we posed to every voter, “Do you support same-sex couples being able to marry?” reaffirmed for me how such a basic concept underlies a powerful and emotional struggle. It would seem hard to fathom that some people would deny other people the right to celebrate their love for one another, yet from the day’s canvassing it was obvious that there is a lot of work to be done in Maine.
I received a mix of responses from votes I spoke with, as did the rest of my staff. Those who were against gay marriage spoke about tradition, marriage being between a man and a woman, and in some cases their religion. The men and women who supported marriage equality responded with comments such as, “Why should the government be involved in people’s business?,” and “I have nothing against gay people.”
My favorite comment, however, was from a 91-year old grandmother who confided in me that although she was a Catholic and that the Bishop had made it clear in church that gay marriage was wrong, she had two grandchildren who are gay and in long-term relationships, and she could not vote for something that would hurt them. Because one of her grandchildren lives in Massachusetts, this gave me the opportunity to talk about gay marriage in Massachusetts, and how much it has made thousands of families safer and more secure.
While our efforts this past Saturday felt gratifying, it is clear that there is a great amount of work left to do in Maine. I would encourage Massachusetts residents to take a weekend or week off to go up to Maine, and talk about the important of marriage equality to Maine voters. To get involved, please contact MassEquality’s Maine Canvass Coordinator, Ian Grady, at 617-878-2365 or IanGrady@MassEquality.org.
Given the swift advancement of marriage equality across New England, it would be both deeply unsettling and sad for Maine to go the way of California. The opportunity to influence this is in your power.