Maine a preview of MN’s marriage vote?


Anyone interested in Minnesota’s vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage this November will find the documentary Question One intriguing.

Filmmakers Joe Fox and James Nubile got extraordinary behind-the-scenes access to both sides of the debate over Maine’s 2009 referendum on marriage. In an interview from his office in New York, Fox explained he “wanted to tell the human story of the people caught up in the fight that would change their lives.”

Fox will be in Minneapolis for screenings of the film May 14-19 at 7 p.m. at the Mall of America Theatre as part of the Twin Cities Film Festival.

For three months, the film crew embedded “war-room style” as Maine voters considered whether to repeal a state law that had legalized same sex marriage. (Spoiler alert: Maine voters repealed the law, but it’s headed for a rematch this November.)

So what are the lessons for Minnesota?

Fox says to expect the same playbook. The Yes on One campaign was run by Frank Schubert, a Sacramento-based PR consultant who also led successful campaigns for Prop 8 in California, in North Carolina last week and is working with Minnesota for Marriage.

Even knowing the outcome, the film is dramatic. Right up to the vote, the No on One side was polling ahead. Why did they lose? The No on One campaign director wonders in the aftermath, “People lied in the polling, and that’s been eating away at me.”


Looking back, Fox remembers a portend. In the phone bank room, Fox overheard Yes callers telling people who were supporting gay neighbors or friends that gays and lesbians already had their civil rights and they didn’t need marriage. “When I heard those calls, there was something in my gut–and the person changed their mind during the course of the call–that I felt perhaps the No side would not win.”

Lesson number 2:

“Never underestimate the passion of people,” said Fox. “I went into this thinking the passions would mostly come from a religious base and yes, that was true, but the passions went beyond that,” said Fox, reflecting on the winning side. “These were people that felt they were being ignored, their voices weren’t being heard and there was a rage that was brewing inside of these people that their leaders weren’t listening to them.”

Lesson number 3:

Conversations matter. “I saw how people’s minds were changed through one knock on the door and the hello that followed,” said Fox. “You’re not fighting an issue. It’s all personal.”

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