Election Day 2009 revealed the moral character of towns across the state of Maine in a manner useful to travelers. A “Yes” vote on Ballot Question 1 this year was a vote to take away the legally-granted marriage rights of gay and lesbian people in Maine. A “No” vote on Ballot Question 1 was a vote to preserve same-sex marriage equality. In some places, huge majorities turned out to affirm the equality of gay and lesbian Mainers; in other places, huge majorities cast gay and lesbian people down to a second-class status. Lesbian and gay Americans may wish to consider this information when deciding where in Maine they might feel welcome, comfortable and safe spending their time, not to mention where in Maine to spend their tourist dollars. Straight Americans who like to spend their time among open-minded people may likewise find this information useful.
Below is a map of Somerset County, a rural county of northern Maine, so rural that vast areas of the county (colored white) have no voting precinct for them whatsoever. For those towns populated enough to have with voting precincts, I’ve gathered election results and color coded them. Blue towns turned out to defend marriage equality by a margin of more than 60%. Green towns defended marriage equality by a margin of 50-60%. Pink towns voted in favor of discrimination against gay and lesbian people by a margin of 50-60%. Yellow towns voted to shun gay and lesbian Mainers by a margin of more than 60%.
The story here is simple and sad: with one exception, every town in Somerset County, Maine voted to take away gay and lesbian couples’ legal right to marriage. Most of the towns of Somerset County, Maine voted to discriminate against gay and lesbian Mainers by an overwhelming margin. The message sent by Somerset County could not be clearer: the sign at the border says “Not Welcome.”
Fortunately for travelers, the one place in Somerset County that voted to uphold the legal rights of gay and lesbian Mainers is also perhaps the most interesting place in Somerset County (and that’s probably not coincidental). The Forks is so named because it is the meeting place of the Kennebec River and the Dead River, a place in the mountains where there is outdoor activity galore, including camping and swimming and whitewater rafting and rock climbing and camping and hiking, hiking, hiking, hiking, hiking. The Appalachian Trail comes through here if you’re inclined to give it a go. Up the airy mountain, down the rushy glen, you can dare to go a-hunting too if that’s your bag.
The Forks is one of those places where people come from all over the place, all sorts of different kinds of people looking to get away from their busier lives for a while. It’s a place where you can breathe in deeply, and a place where you don’t have to wait to exhale.