Elis knock on doors in Maine

Members of Yale for Maine Equality canvassed the state this weekend to encourage voter turnout in opposition of Proposition 1.
Members of Yale for Maine Equality canvassed the state this weekend to encourage voter turnout in opposition of Proposition 1. Photo by Jordi Gassó.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Every Oct. 31, trick-or-treaters go knocking on doors. But this weekend, Yalies were knocking on the doors of Maine residents in support of same-sex marriage.

Yale for Maine Equality, an unregistered undergraduate organization, traveled here to canvass against a ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage. Twenty-four students were out on the streets to encourage voter turnout among Maine residents who have already pledged to vote this Tuesday against Question 1, a proposal to ban same-sex marriage in the state. The debate over Question 1 mirrors last year’s controversy over Proposition 8 in California, which similarly proposed to ban same-sex marriage.

Kate Kraft ’10 and Amalia Skilton ’13, co-presidents of Yale for Maine Equality, said the group first became involved with Question 1 by hosting phone banks in New Haven. Kraft and Skilton said they organized the canvassing trip as part of Drive for Equality, a Maine get-out-the-vote operation, and the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality statewide campaign. At the orientation before canvassing began, organizers said their goal was to reach voters in their homes and direct them to go to the polls early.

Volunteers started their shifts in Biddeford — one of several canvassing locations throughout the state — at 9 a.m. Saturday, when they were given lists of people who expressed support for marriage equality to phone-bankers, along with addresses and maps. After briefing volunteers on the mission of the campaign, they trained volunteers through scripts on how to approach voters. The weather was relatively warm, the room hectic. Organizers were training volunteers every 30 minutes, volunteers were arranging clipboard packages, and people were on their laptop computers searching the latest news from the polls. When canvassers returned from their shifts, they tallied their findings and handed them to campaign organizers.

Canvassers said they experienced a variety of reactions, from fervent support to slammed doors.

Tory Jeffay ’12 said she was expecting people to be much more unfriendly, and Kate Gonzales ’11 said she was caught off guard by the politeness of most Mainers she canvassed.

“I learned you can’t anticipate what people are going to say,” Gonzales said. “I was surprised by how many people were supportive.”

Skilton said one voter shut the door in her face, but that she also encountered “supportive conversation,” often with members of unlikely demographics such as conservative senior citizens.

She said many of the residents she encountered had a “live and let live” ethos and did not wish to strip people of their rights.

She stressed the importance of working toward marriage equality and getting out of the vote of supporters who have yet to vote.

“It is an issue that affects every Yalie and every citizen in the country,” she said. “Marriage equality is the most important civil rights fight of my lifetime.”

Thirty states have already constitutionally banned same-sex marriage. On May 6, Maine passed a law legalizing same-sex marriages, which would have taken effect in September had a people’s veto — Question 1 — not been filed 13 days later. Should Question 1 be defeated, it would mark the first time in American history that a law allowing same-sex marriage has been legitimized through popular vote. Six states, including Connecticut, have recognized same-sex marriage through court rulings.

Luke Hawbaker ’13, one of the canvassers, said though he gave up Halloween night, the sacrifice was worthwhile. He added that losing the battle for marriage equality “would be a setback [for civil rights] for years to come.”

“I’m very tired,” Elizabeth Freeburg ’13 said on Saturday night. “But I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Skilton said she does not yet know Yale for Maine Equality’s next step. Still, she said, regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, the group will continue to campaign for other causes, such as repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy.

Correction: Nov. 2, 2009

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Tory Jeffay ’12.


  • toosinbeymen

    Yea, Yalies! Bravi! You make us proud.

    It should be noted that it’s not about marriage per se but the rights that go along with a union that are at stake. How would a loving lifelong hetro couple feel if they didn’t have mutual hospital visitation rights or the right to pass on property to their loved one free of challenges by others.

  • State rights<< Yale self-importance

    I did not get the impression that these students are residents of Maine. This is not a federal issue at the moment, so why are people traveling to spread their opinions? My issue is not about marriage or individual rights, but about children who prefer to travel to influence democratic processes. Why not pursue Afghan citizenship as well, get some ultra-liberal votes to balance out the country?

  • @ states rights

    Would you have also objected to the freedom riders who drove south to help in the 60’s?

  • Yale 2008


    Stop discriminating against the blind!

    They are BORN that way!

    It is NATURAL!


    Why are you bigots so INTOLERANT of the blind?

  • yalemom

    I would love to see Yalies coming out (no pun intended) with the same passion against abortion (the slaughter of innocent beings without voices)!

  • ’10

    Yale 2008,

    There’s a huge difference between being blind and being gay. Gay people getting married inflicts no objective harm on others: it’s not like two gay dudes getting married will result in a death. Blind people driving, on the other hand…

  • @yalemom

    your son or daughter resents that comment.

  • @yalemom

    CLAY sometimes holds vigils on cross-campus next to demonstrations raising awareness about rape. it may not be as passionate, but it’s at least a million times more inappropriate, and shouldn’t that mean something?

  • Recent Alum

    Yalemom, very well said.

    If I could see just one or two current Yalies doing activism as fervently for the other side of the issue, that would be enough to give some hope in the current crop.

  • Yep

    #2–This is why Matt Hoffman’s candidacy in New York is so ridiculous. He doesn’t even live in the county in which he is running. More importantly, 99 percent of the money donated to his campaign has come from outside the county.
    Why don’t people just stay in their homes and watch TV like good Americans?

  • Law student

    This article implies that marriage equality has, until now, exclusively been the result of court rulings. This is not true. In New Hampshire, just this year, the legislature — not a court — enacted marriage equality by statute. (As did, obviously, the legislature of Maine.)

    Legislatures represent the people. Although today’s referendum in Maine is important, I think it’s wrong to suggest that a referendum is automatically somehow more legitimate than legislation.

  • @”Recent Alum”

    Give up hope now, “Recent Alum.”

    I don’t know how “recent” you are, but I do know that if you look at the polls, marriage equality — and equality for gays and lesbians in general — is absolutely inevitable, because of generational change.

    If you look at the polling results by age group, it’s obvious that as the older generation dies off, your views will go the way of the large majorities of the past who supported the laws banning interracial marriage, or even further back, those who supported slavery or limiting voting rights to men.

    Progress is slow, but we’re watching it happen these days on gay issues; this Maine vote may tell us something about how quickly the changes are coming, but regardless of today’s outcome, the long-term outlook is clear.

  • relative

    I think it is important for people to stick up for what they believe in. Although the Maine election doesn’t technically change anything in other states, the more people see that equality for gays isn’t having a negative impact on those around them, the more they will be willing to support (or at the very least allow) it in their own states when the issue comes to them. Knocking these students for going to another state is like knocking the Yankee soldiers during the Civil War, or as mentioned above, the Freedom Riders of the 60s. Should we criticize the American soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan because they have traveled outside their home state to fight for people to have rights? And if we are going to have issues with outside funding, what about all the money that was spent to pass Prop 8 in California, and the money being spent to support Question 1 in Maine? Most of that is not coming from those states. One of the great things about our country is the idea of equal rights for all. These students are simply trying to uphold that ideal. If they choose to spend their free time and energy to do it, more power to them.

  • DC13

    @2: Civil rights are, in fact, a federal issue; Question 1 is a fairly blatant affront to the 14th Amendment. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

  • harvard law

    This article is not about whether referendums are more or less legitimate than legislation: it simply states what has been going on in Maine. That said, legislatures may represent the people, but referendums are a true way of putting direct democracy in action.

  • No Surprise

    Gay marriage has now lost in every state — 31 in all — in which it has been put to a popular vote.

    Five states have legalized gay marriage — Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut — but all did so through legislation or court rulings, not by popular vote.

  • y09

    If Brown v. Board of Education was put to a vote in the 1950s South, it wouldn’t have passed either. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t right.

  • think of the children!

    marriage is a biblical covenant between a man and woman and god. hetero couples can make babies, homo ones cant. giving married people legal rewards for contributing to the human race seems fair to me. studies show kids are better off with a mom anddd a dad. single parent homes are not ideal, and same sex parents are not ideal. just because the chick in glee has 2 dads doesnt mean its actually a healthy thing to do to a child (and despite her hot voice, she admits no one likes her at school).

    gay people have the right to get married to the opposite sex. that is their right. im worried #12 is right and america will shift for the worse. if gay couples want legal status similar to hetero couples, then call it something else. it is highly offensive that people want to disrespect a covenant with god to call a relationship requiring sodomy a marriage. in the words of ocho cinco, CHILD PLEASE

  • Zzzz

    Diff. issue.

    Because there is no point–positive or negative–to gay “coupling”, there is no point in regulating it. That is, since there is no societal benefit or danger or optimal paradigm related to gay coupling (as opposed to tripling, group love, abandonment, exclusivity, etc.), there is no point in the State recognizing it, or even noticing.

    Gays love one another? That’s great. But there is no reason–other than “acceptance” or “acknowledgment”–to give it equal standing with potentially procreative coupling.

    Humans (and voters) understand this implicitly.

    You want “protections”? Visitation rights, inheritance rights, etc.? Go get ‘em! That’s what contract law is all about. Other than that–and unlike anti-miscegenation laws (which CLEARLY understood the mechanics of potentially procreative couplings)–fuggeddaboudit.

    And even if (or, likely, when) state-recognized and sanctioned gay “marriage” comes to pass, and just like putting two mommies on the birth cert–saying “it’s so” doesn’t make it so.

  • Zzzz

    In other words: No one has proposed any law to ban gay relationships, and the law should not interfere with consenting, non-sanguinary [although, one wonders, what consanguinity has to do with a gay couple…] adults in creating legal partnerships for property, access, and so on — the incidentals of long-term relationships. But the people of the states have the right to determine what relationships qualify for state recognition as marriage.

    And, yes, I am against no-fault divorce…