Opinion: Could Philip Spooner be the key in Maine’s same-sex marriage vote?


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An unlikely folk hero has emerged from the debate over same-sex marriage in Maine. On Tuesday, voters will decide whether to go along with the Legislature’s legalization of same-sex marriage in the state or whether to kill it via a ‘people’s veto.’

If voters defeat Question 1 -- meaning if they affirm the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry -- Maine will become the first state to support same-sex marriage at the ballot box. So far, such marriages have been legalized only through court rulings or legislative action.


Polls have shown an extremely tight race, and supporters of same-sex marriage have been hoping to get a boost from an 87-year-old World War II veteran who has become the Internet face of opposition to Question 1. Close to 600,000 people have watched Philip Spooner on YouTube, recounting in a public hearing earlier this year the wrenching sights of blood and death he saw in action and his belief that the sacrifice was in support of a nation that extends equal rights to all.

Spooner, a lifelong Republican, and his late wife raised four sons, one of whom is gay. It’s unthinkable to him, he said in the tremulous voice of old age, that three of his sons will enjoy rights denied to the fourth.

‘This is what we fought for in World War II,’ he said, ‘that idea that we can be different and still be equal.’

Maine residents might be traditionalists by nature, but they also have a reputation as independent sorts who take a live-and-let-live attitude toward life. Spooner is, as gay-marriage supporters see him, the epitome of that fierce independence.

Let’s hope Maine voters have been a big part of Spooner’s Internet audience.

-- Karin Klein