No on 1 holds slim lead in early returns

Staff
Portland Press Herald
Nov 3, 2009
Both sides had said they expected a close battle.

PORTLAND -- The polls have closed and the ballots are being counted for a full slate of referendums, including a hard-fought battle on same-sex marriage that was closely watched by the rest of the nation.

Polling places closed at 8 p.m., and Maine's top election official said voter turnout will be higher than he originally projected because of "intense interest" in the referendums.

As results began to be reported, No on 1 -- the side that supports same-sex marriage -- was holding a slim lead, but both sides had said they expected a close battle.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the bill into law in May, but opponents of same-sex marriage gathered the signatures necessary to call for a public vote.

Veto opponents, including Baldacci, watched returns come in at the Holiday Inn By the Bay.

Supporters of Question 1, who oppose same-sex marriage, gathered at the Eastland Park Hotel to wait for results.

A crowd of some hundred supporters of Yes on 1 broke into applause and cheers in the main ballroom of the Eastland around 9:30 p.m. following brief remarks from Frank Schubert, campaign manager.

"I'm happy to tell you at this point we are ahead of our projections in every county," said Schubert, from a small stage. "Here's to yes on Question 1."

Mary Stawn, 55 of Windham, was among the supporters.

"I have many friends in gay and lesbian relationships," said Stawn. "I don't judge them. But my Christian reality frames my definition of marriage."

If the law is upheld, Maine would be the sixth state in the country to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa already allow gay marriage, and New Hampshire's new law will take effect in January.

Couples in Maine would most likely be allowed to marry by late December if the law is upheld and if there's not a recount, according to the governor's office.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap originally projected that 35 percent of voting age residents would turn out at polling places. Dunlap now says it appears that the turnout is outpacing those projections.

While gay marriage is the top item, residents also voted on tax-related referendums and proposals calling for the repeal of the state's school district consolidation law and an expansion of the medical marijuana law.

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