Yalies call for gay marriage in Maine

Ben Stango ’11, Jess Belding ’13 and Laura Cremer ’13 participate in Thursday’s phone-banking session arranged by Yale for Maine Equality.
Ben Stango ’11, Jess Belding ’13 and Laura Cremer ’13 participate in Thursday’s phone-banking session arranged by Yale for Maine Equality. Photo by Sam Greenberg.

Nearly one year after gay marriage became legal in Connecticut, Yale students are hoping to sway Maine voters to support the state’s recent legalization of gay marriage.

Yale for Maine Equality brought 29 Yale students to the Yale Women’s Center Thursday to petition Maine voters by phone. The group was formed last month specifically to lobby against Question 1, a ballot initiative that, if passed, would veto the law passed in May that allowed for same-sex marriage in Maine. Callers Thursday encouraged Maine voters to cast early ballots against the referendum.

Yale for Maine Equality utilized the phone-banking system set up by Maine’s statewide “No on 1/Protect Maine Equality” campaign. Their current goal is to encourage people to vote against the bill early, so that as the Nov. 3 election draws closer, the campaign can focus its efforts on those people they know have not yet voted, explained Mark Sullivan, the communications director for No on 1.

In May, Maine Governor John Baldacci signed a bill legalizing gay marriage, which has not yet gone into effect. Opponents of the law quickly collected the 55,000 signatures required to put Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot. A recent poll conducted by Pan Atlantic SMS Group put the pro-gay marriage side ahead by nine percentage points. But Yale for Maine Equality co-organizer Amalia Skilton ’13 said this margin is too close for comfort.

Beyond ensuring that gay marriage is legal in Maine, Yale for Maine Equality co-organizers Skilton and Kate Kraft ’10 discussed a broader vision for their organization.

“The [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender] Co-op has not done a whole lot with activism and wants to get more involved in that,” Skilton said.

She said she sees potential for her organization to evolve into a permanent activist group dedicated to marriage equality all across the country. Kraft also said this could help to get Yale students more involved in LGBT issues beyond the Yale campus.

Sullivan said college students have played a vital role in the campaign, bringing high levels of passion and energy to their work. No on 1 currently has organizers at all major Maine college campuses.

Scott Fish, the communications director for Stand for Marriage Maine, which supports Question 1, admitted that his opposition has an advantage when it comes to support from college students. But he said his campaign has also been contacted by students wishing to set up a presence on campuses.

There have been no organized efforts to support Question 1 at Yale. Though many phone-bankers connected this with Yale’s reputation as the “Gay Ivy,” Skilton said she received some “hostile” responses to the e-mail advertising the phone bank.

Other groups of Yale students have already organized smaller phone banks opposing Question 1, focused on polling voters to see how much support Question 1 has, Skilton said. Skilton and Kraft also discussed the possibility of holding more phone-banking sessions before the election and having a group trip up to Maine the weekend before the vote closes.

Students at the phone bank Thursday stressed the importance of winning in Maine. Kraft mentioned that gay marriage supporters have suffered many losses across the nation recently, and Maine is an important election in which they have a good chance of winning, she said.

“Winning this issue will generate momentum for the progressive movement nationwide,” Fish ceded.

Yale for Maine Equality collaborated on the phone bank with the LGBT Coop, Jews for Justice and the Yale chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

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