The latest polling in Maine looks familiar: Gay marriage opponents appear to be on the upswing, on a ballot initiative that is just as confusing as Proposition 8 last year. (A "yes" vote means "no").
I'm no expert on the Maine electorate --- see here and here for some very good coverage --- but based on the way the issue has been presented to voters in ads, opponents of gay nuptials have the advantage of raw emotion while the No on 1 camp has been consumed with the idea of fairness.
In a dire economy, conservative backlash and other simmering angers will the advantage go to those who can tug at people's personal fears rather than civic values of equality?
As you will see from a sampling of ad spots, the Yes on 1 campaign lately is trying to have it both ways, with one spot referring to "homosexual marriage" being taught in schools, and another assuring voters with the claim that they can still reject same-sex marriage and support equal rights for gays and lesbians. It even calls for "being tolerant of gays" with an existing domestic partnership law in place, even though its other spots present the fight for "homosexual" rights as a threat against kids. ("They are already pushing their agenda in Maine schools.")
The No on 1 campaign isn't replicating the No on 8 playbook, and is much more upfront in featuring same-sex parents, along with straight families. That was one of the big criticisms of Prop 8 last year, that the campaign for marriage equality shied away from actually featuring gays. Tuesday's vote will be a test of whether that actually makes a difference.
In the spots, the No on 1 campaign mentions the state's residents being "able to live the life they want to live, without interfering," an appeal to the libertarian streak of conservatism. And they counter the "threat" to children by charging that same-sex marriage opponents "harm our kids" and trying to "make them feel ashamed." (I wasn't too crazy about one spot that featured puppets, although it didn't get as much play.) It is an emotional pull, but not quite the same level of raw fear of families under siege that the Yes on 1 side has been presenting.
I still believe that the most effective spot was not even one that was made for te airwaves, but a viral video of World War II veteran Phillip Spooner arguing for marriage equality at legislative hearings last spring. It has more than 500,000 views, and may be the best example yet of the emotional side of equality.