Sore Winner

Documentary On Maine Marriage Battle Shows How To Win A Campaign But Lose Your Soul

One of the most endearing characteristic of the anti-gay religious right is that they just can’t stop themselves from telling the truth. Question One: The Battle for Same Sex Marriage in America, the new documentary about Maine’s anti-marriage ballot initiative in 2009, provides another example of stop-me-before-I-hate-again truth telling.

Bill Mutty, the campaign manager for Yes on 1, the successful ballot measure that blocked marriage equality, is captured on camera admitting that one of the key messages of the campaign, the old “homosexuality will be taught in schools” meme, was “hyperbole” and “not a completely accurate statement, and we all know it isn’t.” There’s another word for that: lying. Not exactly the kind of highlight you’d expect to find on the resume of the public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine. (Or maybe it is.)

The documentary’s directors, Joe Fox and James Nubile, persuaded both sides on the ballot initiative to let them film behind-the-scenes at the campaigns. The result is a candid and frequently moving look at the battle to end second-class citizenship for Maine’s lesbian and gay couples. The campaign took a tremendous toll on those who fought on the losing side. Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for “No on 1/Protect Maine Equality”, says tearfully “at the end of the day, these people deserve to get married — and I couldn’t get it done for them.” The documentary is having its debut in Maine this week.

Mutty may have won the campaign, but it’s pretty clear that he lost his soul in the process. He confuses the camera with a confessional. “I fear I’ll be remembered for the work I did on this campaign,” Mutty says. He also asks for “forgiveness for the ways in which I might have betrayed my own self in this endeavor.” Not to mention his fellow citizens. In his heart, Mutty seems to know he’s going to have to log some serious time in purgatory to make up for what he did in 2009.

Mutty today says he still believes the cause was worthwhile, but that he could never run another campaign like it. While we thank him for the favor, that’s cold comfort to the No on 1 supporters who fought valiantly against the lies and doubts that Mutty propagated. As Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, notes, at least you’d like to think that the other side believes in what it’s promoting. Instead, Yes on 1 got a Yankee Karl Rove to run the show.

In the end, marriage equality is inevitable. Mutty only managed to delay it temporarily. The damage he did to himself may have been more permanent. And it was all self-inflicted. Judge for yourself, but don’t shed too many tears in the process.