1. Question 1 in Maine was different from Prop 8 in California in lots of ways, but here's the biggie: there's no one to blame but the haters and the folks who just can't get accept two dudes or two ladies marrying.
We can't blame the slowness or ineffectiveness of the campaign to respond to the OMG-children-will-know-about-teh-gayz fear-mongering. They were fast and their commercials went on the offensive. The LGBT side got plenty of elected officials to call the scare-mongering what it was: a lie. They got the message out in mere hours after the homophobes made their first ridiculously low-quality childrenz ad. If anyone still believed or cared about it, there was no way to reach them.
We can't blame religion. Sure, the vast majority of money for the anti-marriage campaign was from the Catholic Church and the LDS Church (probably... we're waiting for that disclosure, Maggie) via NOM. But the LGBT side raised more cash and religion was barely mentioned in the homophobes' ads. The various church's participation was awkward, to say the least, attempted to move people with the same tactics as in California, but it wasn't a dominating feature of the campaign scene.
We can't blame dangerous minorities, as many LGBT people did last year. According to the last Census survey in 2005, Maine is 97.81% white.
We can't blame the campaign for not letting people knock on doors, or for being top-down, or for not effectively using human resources, or for not doing their best. By all accounts, it was a well-run campaign, and the homophobes' wasn't.
We can't blame the Obama campaign for sucking the air out of the room, the energy from grassroots activists, and the money from big donors. This was the biggest thing on the ballot. Yeah, the DNC sent out that one letter telling Mainers to help the GOTV effort in New Jersey in the final days of the election, but that's not even a fraction of the reason our side lost.
We can't blame Obama himself. He didn't get involved, but that's about it. He didn't even appear in any of the homophobes' ads this time around. Any proof that him getting involved would have done anything but drive the tea-baggers to the polls as Glenn Beck, et al., tell their loyal followers about how Obama's trying to impose marriage on your family, so We the People need to respond, yada yada yada? Beck may have even hired an actor to dress up like Thomas Paine again, and this time it would have been more poignant because Thomas Paine was from the Revolution and Maine's old-timey.
(This is the one that's going around the most, but I just don't see it. People voted the way they did because this is what they believe, and they're adults and we can't blame X or Y person for not helping enough. If Obama had said the word "Maine" at the HRC dinner, I'm 100% sure we still would have lost.)
We can't blame people for not donating. We out-raised the homophobes significantly, right from the beginning.
We can't blame HRC. I don't even know how that could happen, but, well, it was out there the last time around and it won't be this time.
We can't blame any certain egotistical local politician for his arrogant gaffes that were used by the right to make us seem like awful human beings. Our allies in government were on their best behavior.
All we're left with is the raw fact that people just don't like the idea of marriage becoming a genderless practice. That's it. Even if they're nice people to your face, even if they don't want us to be fired for being gay, even if they think we should be able to have a nice life and visit our partners in the hospital and all that, they just don't like same-sex marriage.
(And on that note, I'll just add that maybe folks, myself included, were too harsh on the No on 8 Campaign last year. They stank up a storm with the lack of campaign skills, but this election is evidence that these campaigns really don't affect people much anyway.)
2. Everyone's been pointing out the obvious, that an anti-discrimination bill passed overwhelmingly, DP's won in Washington, and marriage lost in Maine. This isn't rocket science - this is a trend that's been apparent in polling for years now. Everywhere in America:
Which reminds me of those folks who were all in favor of dumping the T from LGBT just two years ago when the going got tough on ENDA. It's strategic, they said. Transgender protections are harder to pass because people are scared of men in dresses peeing next to their daughters, they said. Trans folks aren't accepted, they said. They just don't poll well.
Bullshit. It was never a strategic decision. Ever notice how most of those people who came out in favor of splitting ENDA are obsessed with marriage? I can think of a few who probably can't even name another LGBT issue they consider important. The more famous advocates of splitting ENDA in 2007 said that marriage was the "highest dignity" for people to achieve. Another one declared, without a shred of evidence, that DOMA repeal was the most important piece of legislation for "the community" and that ENDA passing would just be a crumb to get the community to sell out.
The truth is that same-sex marriage scares people a lot more than the impossible instance a pervert will put on a dress to rape grandma and get away with it because of an anti-discrimination law. That kind of fear-mongering was out in full force in Kalamazoo, and it didn't work.
Marriage polls worse than everything else, including transgender job protections. Wouldn't it be strategic to come back for it in a few decades? I mean, it's just strategic incrementalism. This is politics. Take half-a-loaf when you can. I'm sure we'd all rather have a law banning housing discrimination than nothing at all.
3. Oh, Gay Apartheid. How you call us with your inflammatory siren song. Yes, Maine is the gay version of pre-Mandela South Africa. I'll believe that when Maine gays are literally stripped of their citizenship, forcibly relocated to slums and unusable "farm" land by the hundreds of thousands, and lose the right to vote, when buses, hospitals, beaches, parks, and businesses become strictly segregated, and when gays are legally barred from buying liquor or land.
No, I'm not saying it's not shitty that same-sex marriage lost in Maine. But this is almost Godwin's Law and if we engage in this rhetoric on a large scale we'll seem entirely unserious to the outside world. Civil unions aren't Apartheid by a mile, although it may hurt a lot that they're separate and clearly unequal. Calling it "Apartheid" is being inflammatory for inflammation's sake, in much the same way some folks like to compare everything they don't like to Nazis and the Holocaust.
And, no, it's not even "an" apartheid. It's not the technical definition of apartheid at all, which is defined by the Rome Statute as:
The 'crime of apartheid' means inhumane acts of a character similar to those referred to in paragraph 1, committed in the context of an institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.
"Paragraph 1" refers to rape, torture, genocide, forced movement, and enslavement. Sorry, I care about intellectual honesty and have a shred of dignity here somewhere, so I will not compare civil unions or even the absence of same-sex couple recognition to torture, genocide, or slavery.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work.
Not everything should be put up for a vote. Civil rights legislation, immigration policy, and tax law are three specific areas that come to mind as generally terrible ideas to put before the people to be scare-mongered. Sometimes we have to rise above our human nature that say that we're simply better than other people, or that we don't like outsiders, or that we don't want to share our money.
It's part of living in a civilization.
The right, for all their histrionics over "letting the people vote," don't really care about democracy. It's a selective value, and the moment they start losing these ballot initiatives, they'll be talking about how the people can't be trusted to vote for their own good because The Culture went down the tube and need moral magistrates to preside over them.
If anything, this past week is evidence of how marriage can turn us (myself included) into the most narrow-focused of magpies and forget that we won several elections. Washington kept its domestic partnership rights, Kalamazoo kept its LGBT anti-discrimination law, and a few out LGBT politicians won local races. Did you know there's now an openly gay HIV activist on the Salt Lake City council?
Those aren't trifles. Those aren't crumbs. Those aren't distractions. They're important victories that wouldn't have been possible several years ago. Drink to that this weekend before going to a protest rally.