Activists in New England on Wednesday morning reported some very positive election outcomes for gays in Massachusetts. Officials from MassEquality said that despite orchestrated Republican opposition led by the state's governor, Mitt Romney, all incumbent lawmakers who voted in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples earlier this year won reelecton.
"This election should finally put to rest the fear-mongering that led up to and followed May 17 when gay and lesbian couples began to marry in Massachusetts," said MassEquality political director Marc Solomon. "The truth is, Massachusetts voters care much more about health care, education, and jobs than they do about same-sex marriage. Attempts to use gay marriage as a wedge issue that will decide legislative elections simply do not work in Massachusetts."
Added Marty Rouse, campaign director for MassEquality: "We unleashed an unprecedented effort statewide to reelect our allies and defeat our opponents. Supporters of equal marriage rights worked strategically in both the primary and general elections. We told incumbents we'd stick with them, and we did, from door-knocking to phone banking to fund-raising. Our volunteers were critical to this success."
MassEquality spent $700,000 to conduct polling, phoning, field work, and mailings. The group sent more than 30,000 pieces of mail to MassEquality members urging them to volunteer, contribute, and vote for a candidate in their district. At phone banks across the state, volunteers made more than 15,000 telephone calls to voters urging them to support a pro-equality candidate.
The Massachusetts results contrast dramatically with the experience of legislators in Vermont who supported civil unions legislation. Following the passage of the civil unions law in 2000, the issue dominated state elections, with anti-equality forces launching a "Take Back Vermont" campaign. In the 2000 Vermont primaries, five incumbent Republican supporters of civil unions were defeated, and in the general election, 17 supporters of civil unions were defeated. The Vermont house of representatives shifted from majority Democratic control to a 21-seat Republican majority.
"Four years ago many Vermont legislators were not prepared for the backlash from the voters," Rouse said. "This time in Massachusetts, MassEquality was prepared with volunteers, expertise, and donations."