Portland, Maine Maine voters repealed a state law Tuesday that would have allowed same-sex couples to wed, dealing the gay rights movement a heartbreaking defeat in New England, the corner of the country most supportive of gay marriage.
Gay marriage has now lost in every single state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote. Gay-rights activists had hoped to buck that trend in Maine — known for its moderate, independent-minded electorate — and mounted an energetic, well-financed campaign.
With 87 percent of the precincts reporting, gay-marriage foes had 53 percent of the votes.
“The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation,” declared Frank Schubert, chief organizer for the winning side.
Gay-marriage supporters refused to concede, holding out hope that that the tide might turn as the final returns came in.
“We’re here for the long haul and whether it’s just all night and into the morning, or it’s next week or next month or next year, we will be here,” said Jesse Connolly, manager of the pro-gay marriage campaign.
At issue was a law passed by the Maine Legislature last spring that would have legalized same-sex marriage. The law was put on hold after conservatives launched a petition drive to repeal it in a referendum.
The outcome marked the first time voters had rejected a gay-marriage law enacted by a legislature. When Californians put a stop to same-sex marriage a year ago, it was in response to a court ruling, not legislation.
“If we don’t win, then Maine will have its place in infamy because no state has ever voted for homosexual marriage,” said Chuck Schott of Portland, who stood near a polling place in with a pro-repeal campaign sign.