In Four States, Gay Marriage is Hotter than the Presidential Race

Tuesday, Maine will try for a second time to legalize gay marriage

Gay marriage supporters rally in downtown Portland, Maine, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in a final campaign push before Tuesday's vote on a same-sex marriage referendum.

Gay marriage supporters rally Thursday in downtown Portland, Maine, in a final campaign push before Tuesday's vote on a same-sex marriage referendum.

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When Casey Pick left Maine in 2009, she says she departed with unfinished business.

Pick had worked to defeat a referendum that nullified Maine's marriage equality legislation, but the referendum passed 53 percent to 47 percent.

[READ: Should Same-Sex Marriage Be Legal Nationwide?]

"When we lost, it never quite left me. It was devastating," says Pick, program director for the Log Cabin Republicans. "We had done everything we could. We had really gone above and beyond. People did shift after shift of door knocking and phone banking up to the second the polls closed. We got to the end of it and some of the supporters we thought were with us weren't. It hurt."

But on Tuesday, Mainers will have another chance to weigh in on gay marriage. And this time Pick is on the ground, confident Mainers will vote on the side of same-sex couples.

"Three years is a very long time on this issue," Pick says. "Voters brought this initiative. These are folks who are willing to split ticket and willing to analyze all the issues."

Many things changed in the state since Maine brought the ballot initiative in 2009. After they were defeated, supporters of marriage equality in Maine didn't stop working. Without the pressures of an election cycle, organizers began voter education efforts targeted at the rural counties of Maine. Supporters say they've had more than 200,000 conversations with voters in a state with slightly more than one million people.

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Pick says she came back to Maine because the issue is deeply personal.

"I want to be able to honeymoon in Maine one day," she says.

Pick graduated high school in Iowa in 2002 when the conversation about gay marriage equality was heating up in Massachusetts. She also hadn't yet come to terms with her own orientation.

"I was a scared, closeted kid who did not have Glee on television," Pick says. "I had to find references to human sexuality in books in the back of the school library. I was scared of being gay and was determined to research the fear out of me."

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It wasn't until she attended Claremont McKenna College in California that Pick began to embrace being gay. She says she came out, in part, because she saw equality issues like same-sex marriage were worth fighting for. Pick joined Log Cabin Republicans, a conservative group that believes in marriage equality, and in law school began campaigning in states across the country for same-sex marriage.

Watching the ballot initiative in Maine fail, Pick says she became more motivated.

While Maine is the first and only state to bring a citizen-initiated ballot question, three other states also are also voting on same-sex marriage on Tuesday.

In Washington and Maryland, constituents will vote on legislative initiatives allowing gay marriage. And in Minnesota, voters will choose whether the state constitution should be amended to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

While state legislatures and courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage, this could be the first election where a same-sex ballot initiative passes.

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The four-pronged battle over gay marriage has left religious groups and the National Organization for Marriage spread a little thin.

"It is much more difficult to have to fight four state ballot initiatives at the same time," says NOM President Brian Brown.

NOM has given more than $5 million to defeat same-sex marriage in the four states and is depending on religious allies, including the Catholic and Mormon churches, to get out the message and the vote.

Black voters are another major coalition for NOM. The religious black community helped pass Proposition 8 in California, which amended California's constitution to ban same-sex marriage, and Brown says he's confident black voters will help defeat the ballot measure in Maryland.

"We have our own rainbow coalition," Brown says. "We have a pretty diverse coalition, and it is not just split between Republicans and Democrats."