AP Laments Maine Marriage Victory

November 4th, 2009 3:10 PM

On Nov. 3, 53 percent of Maine voters rejected a six-month-old law redefining the state's definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The next day, an AP article about the vote read more like a direct mail appeal for the Human Rights Campaign than a news piece.

Headlined "Maine Voters Repeal Law Allowing Gay Marriage," the article called the repeal of the legislation that granted marriage for same-sex couples a "stinging defeat" for the gay rights movement and focused almost exclusively on the reactions of gays and lesbians. Framed around the thwarted wedding plans of a lesbian couple, the article contained three quotes from supporters of same sex-marriage and only one from an advocate for traditional marriage.

"Cecelia Burnett and Ann Swanson had already set their wedding date," began the article. "When they joined about 1,000 other gay marriage supporters for an election night party in a Holiday Inn ballroom, they hoped to celebrate the vote that would make it possible."

The conclusion of the article read, "For Burnett and Swanson, the July 10 wedding date - and a reception cruise on Casco Bay - is off."

AP reporters filled out the story with choice quotes from Burnett and other supporters - including one from Sarah Holman, who, "despite her conservative upbringing" voted to allow marriage between two men or two women.

"They love and they have the right to love. And we can't tell somebody how to love," Holman told the AP.

"I'm ready to start crying," Burnett told the AP. "I don't understand what the fear is, why people are so afraid of this change." She insisted, "It's a personal rejection of us and our relationship, and I don't understand what the fear is."

Jesse Connolly, the campaign manager for No on 1/Protect Maine Equality, told supporters, "We're not short-timers. 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. We'll be here fighting. We'll be working. We will regroup."

Frank Schubert, the chief organizer for Stand for Marriage Maine, provided the lone quote from the winning side.

"The institution of marriage has been preserved in Maine and across the nation," he told the AP.

But as biased as this AP story was, at least the agency explored the story.

ABC and CBS gave brief mention to the victory for traditional values in their morning news reads, while NBC ignored the story.

Their reticence is strange, considering ABC and NBC both thought the Maine referendum important enough to discuss last weekend. NBC ran a segment about it on the Oct. 31 broadcast of "Today," and ABC covered it the next night during "World News Sunday."

It's a compelling story. Maine is the 31st state to hold up the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Maine voters are the first in New England to put same-sex marriage to a state-wide vote after having it forced upon them by the state governments or courts as it was in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

At the very least it's worth a discussion about the proper relationship between state government and the judiciary versus the people.