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As Goes Maine...

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All eyes are on the state of Maine as Election Day brings gay marriage rights to the forefront. The polls have already been open for hours, after an enormous get-out-the-vote effort was orchestrated across the Pine Tree State.

Please return to Advocate.com for updates from Advocate correspondent Dana Hernandez on the state's fight over whether to retain the marriage equality law that was passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci in the spring. We will also keep you up to date on the results of Washington state's domestic-partnership initiative, Kalamazoo, Mich.'s antidiscrimination ordinance, the contentious governor's race in New Jersey, and the mayoral election in Houston, which could bring in the first lesbian mayor of a major city.

Update 12:30 p.m. ET - There are tears in the crowd. 'No on 1' Campaign Manager Jesse Connolly asked everyone not give up on hope, even though it looks grim. They will be counting votes and absentee ballots into the night and into next week if they have to make sure each vote is counted, Connolly said.

Update 11:34 p.m. ET - With 64% of precincts reporting, the Bangor Daily News shows the Yes on 1 votes inching ahead.

Yes 190057 51.66%
No 177857 48.34%

Update 11:14 p.m. ET - With 30% of precincts reporting, Question 1 in Maine is too close to call. With 148 of 608 precincts reporting, each side has about 50 percent of the votes.

Update 11:00 p.m. ET - The ballroom is full of people and the crowd is very diverse. Parents are here with their teenagers, couples, gay, straight, old, young, and in-between. Remarkable. There is a feeling of friendship and family and people coming together to support each other, no matter what.

For the first time tonight, No falls behind -- 74,802 Yes with 50.51% of the vote; 73,292 No with 49.49% of the vote.

Update 10:35 p.m. ET - The Mayor of Portland, Jill Duson, arrived and asked everyone in the room who cast a ballot today to raise their hands high. The entire room screamed and hands shot in the air.

"Now turn to a neighbor and hug them," Duson said. "We love those public displays of affection." People embraced. Neighbors, strangers, and friends all hugged as one, cheering.

She shared the Portland numbers: 7, 240 YES; 19, 975 NO

The crowd goes wild....

Update 10:17 p.m. ET - Auburn and Kennebunkport vote NO on 1! The results flash on a large overhead screen and the crowd goes wild. People have chills and are jumping up and down!

Update 10:10 p.m. ET - Gov. John Baldacci stopped by to applaud effort of the volunteers and voters.

"This state recognizes individual rights and civil liberties," Baldacci said. "It recognizes together we are going to be a lot stronger than we are apart. ... This is a special state."

Update 10:02 p.m. ET - With 22% of precincts reporting, the effort to keep same-sex marriage is still ahead, but the gap has significantly narrowed, according to the Bangor Daily News:

No - 56,659, 50.62%
Yes - 55,267, 49.38%

Update 9:55 p.m. ET - Mary Bonauto, the civil rights project director at Gay and Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) since 1990, stood on the podium and gave thanks to all the volunteers who donated money and time to this campaign.

"A big thanks to those that are not gay and lesbian themselves but has made this fight their own," Bonauto said.

Update 9:47 p.m. ET - The No's win in Bangor -- 54% No to 46% yes ... that's a heavily populated area, so it picks up a lot of votes for 'No on 1.'

Update 9:20 p.m. ET - Rea Carey, executive director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Prop. 8 was a devastating loss, but it is unfair to compare Maine's campaign with California's. "They have vastly differently environments," Carey said. "You can run an ad in Maine that says 'We Are Mainers and These Are Our Families' and everyone can identify with being a Mainer. You can't do that in California."

She said this is due to the large areas in California that people live: the coasts, Northern California, Southern California, and cities.

Carey is hopeful the numbers will continue to be in favor of No on 1 until every last vote is counted, she said.
"IF we lose tonight, it will show there is still a slice of people that just don't want gay people to be married," Carey said. "There is a percenatge of voters hearts and minds we have to change."

More on next page...

Update 9:05 p.m. ET - With 5% of precincts reporting, the effort to keep same-sex marriage is now ahead by nine points, according to the Bangor Daily News:

No - 14988 54.48%
Yes - 12524 45.52%

Update 8:50 p.m. ET
First report: District 1 - South Portland

Yes - 493 votes
No - 1001 votes
(Not counting absentee)

District 1 is reporting a 2- to-1 vote for the No on 1 side...

Update 8:50 p.m. ET - With 3% of precincts reporting, the effort to ban same-sex marriage is leading by about seven percentage points, according to the Bangor Daily News:

Yes - 6,611 votes, 53.39%
No - 5,771, 46.61%

Update 8:20 p.m. ET - The No on 1 campaign reached out yesterday to a different kind of community for one last push.
"We used our relationships that we made online with activists and bloggers for our cause," said Jenna Lowenstein, communications director for the National Stonewall Democratic Federation. "We asked for $25,000 and we got well over $75,000. It was amazing."

In partnership with ActBlue.com page, the No on 1 team asked for help and was surprised by the result.

"It was not expected," said Julia Rosen, the online political director for the Courage Campaign. "It was really organic."
Tonight the volunteers and online community are meeting for the first time and all waiting for the same announcement: "We made history."

Update 8:10 p.m. ET (Maine No on 1 Headquarters) - Win or lose, the fight for real equality will not be over until we find middle ground with our opponents, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told Advocate.com.

"Don't let your anger blind you," Solmonese said. "You ask, 'What's at the heart of your resistance?' That's the question." The goal is to give them a reason to understand the importance for marriage equality, he said. "You get them to a place where we can close the deal."

Update 8:02 p.m. ET - The polls are officially closed in Maine and the Bangor Daily News has begun posting results.

Update 7:39 p.m. ET (Maine No on 1 Headquarters) - The band begins to set up in the grand ballroom of the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. A bartender fills ice buckets and gets ready to serve drinks.

No on 1 volunteers start to arrive at the new campaign headquarters. Everyone is waiting for news and poll numbers to come through. They mill around the lobby bar waiting and drinking, welcoming each other with hugs and nervous chatter. Some are there with their partners. Some are just there with friends to celebrate the enormous amount of work that has taken place here in the sparsely populated New England state. Others wonder if history has been made yet?

"We have some optimistic signs that things are looking favorable," said Jeremy Hooper, creator of GoodForYou.org. "I am cautiously optimistic." -- Dana Hernandez
More on next page...

Update 5:30 p.m. ET - Joe Sudbay, a D.C. resident and native Mainer who is volunteering for No on 1, is locked away at campaign HQ in Portland.

"We're collecting numbers of how many people have voted in Cumberland County, the biggest county in the state, where Portland is," he says. "This get-out-the-vote operation has been a machine."

Sudbay volunteered for get-out-the-vote efforts in 2005 during the state's last referendum on LGBT rights, when voters were faced with whether to uphold a law that added sexual orientation and gender identity to Maine's human rights statute. The voters did indeed uphold the law in 2005, and Sudbay recalls turnout being higher than average for an off-year election -- about 40%.

"The higher the turnout, the lower the age of the average voter -- and that works to our advantage. That's the way I look at it," he says, giving a nod to the fact that older voters are more likely to dominate the electorate in a low-turnout election.

All indications from the secretary of state and people on the ground suggest that turnout is even higher today than in 2005. That's the way things look to Sudbay too, based on the numbers they're tracking at HQ. "It's definitely higher," he says. "You can really see it in some of the towns around Portland." -- Kerry Eleveld

Update 5:15 p.m. ET (Maine No on 1 Headquarters) - Scores of people are still lining up to cast their ballots in Maine, blowing the earlier voter-turnout predictions out of the water. The No on 1 team is hopeful that these numbers will help defeat Question 1, which seeks to repeal the new same-sex marriage law that the governor signed this spring.

As reported earlier today on Politico.com, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap upped his voter-turnout prediction to more than half of all registered voters in Maine. Earlier today Dunlap predicted that only 35% of voters would cast a ballot.

If the No on 1 group is successful, Maine will be the sixth state to legalize gay marriage and the first state to defend the law at the ballot box. More than 100,000 absentee ballots have been turned in and will be counted once the polls close at 8 p.m. The Maine ballot also asks residents to vote on an expansion of the state's medical marijuana law, a repeal of school district consolidation, and two tax-related initiatives. -- Dana Hernandez

Update 2:19 p.m. ET - Americablog is reporting that Organizing for America e-mailed Maine voters yesterday about today's election -- but said nothing about Question 1, the effort to repeal marriage equality in the state. Today, the blog reports, OFA sent an e-mail asking Maine voters to get involved -- in New Jersey.

Update 2:01 p.m. ET - Politico.com's Ben Smith reports that voter turnout in Maine is high -- very high -- which analysts have said bodes well for marriage equality.

"I think we could be over 50% for the state," Maine secretary of state Matt Dunlap told Smith. "We originally projected 35%."

In Bangor -- Maine's third-largest city, likely to tilt against repeal -- voter turnout is projected to be over 50%. Today, on the Bangor Daily News website, No on 1 has taken out a gigantic ad that dominates the page.

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