Daily Brief: Poll says same-sex marriage debate is ‘over’; Bunyan born in Bangor

Greetings from Augusta, where the Presidents Day holiday has state offices shut down and there is nothing on the docket. The Legislature will remain at recess for the rest of this week, though a handful of committees have hearings scheduled beginning Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Bangor Daily News for coverage and analysis.

So, this will be a brief edition of the State & Capitol Daily Brief. Stay on top of what’s happening in Augusta here every day and if you like we’ll deliver it straight to you email inbox. — Christopher Cousins

Marriage equality debate ‘over’?

Maine was one of the first three states to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote in 2012, and a lot has happened since then. A total of 37 states now allow same-sex marriage and pending decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court could soon make it legal in the rest.

Public opinion is also swaying, according to recent polling data from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a Democratic polling firm that conducted its survey for the Human Rights Campaign. In a national sample of 1,000 likely voters conducted in late January, 60 percent of respondents said they “somewhat favor” or “strongly favor” allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. That compares with 37 percent who said they somewhat or strongly oppose same-sex marriage. The more entrenched positions at the ends of the opinion spectrum included 43 percent who strongly favor marriage rights, versus just 9 percent who were strongly against.

The poll echoed a New York Times/CBS News/YouGov poll of 1,500 voters in late September 2014, which found 63 percent for same-sex marriage.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner said its data shows that support for same-sex marriage is at an all-time high, besting its own results from a year ago and an ABC News/Washington Post poll from October 2014. It reported gains on the issue among some groups who in the past have been opposed, including seniors, non-college voters, Catholics and southern voters.

“For most of the country, this debate is over,” states a memo from the polling firm.

However, the Supreme Court case, as well as a high-profile dispute in Alabama over the issue, could re-ignite the opposition, which remains fervent in some areas. In Kansas, for example, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback recently eliminated protections for gay and lesbian state workers with an executive order he issued last week.

There is also pressure the other way. Last week, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine co-sponsored a bill called the Jury ACCESS Act with New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, which would prohibit federal courts from striking jurors because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

More than 1,500 gay and lesbian couples tied the knot in the first year after Maine implemented its same-sex marriage law. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Paul Bunyan’s birthplace? Bangor has proof

Last week, a local sculptor proposed adding a statue of Babe the Blue Ox near a 31-foot statue of Babe’s folklore companion, Paul Bunyan in front of the Queen City’s Cross Insurance Center. Thus, a rivalry was born between Bangor and Bemidji, Minnesota, where statues of Babe and Bunyan stand tall (though not as tall as Bangor’s, according to a Feb. 15 report by Zach Kayser of the Bemidji Pioneer).

The article makes a lot of hay out of the fact that the design of the proposed Bangor Babe is more “menacing-looking, when we think of Babe as a pretty happy and carefree and friendly kind of fellow.”

A little deeper dig in Bemidji’s version of the Babe/Bunyan story reveals themes of violence. Their Paul statute used to hold a shotgun. And the local tourist bureau claims that a mainstay at Bunyan’s camp was Sport-the-Reversible-Dog, who was accidentally cut in two with an ax by a logger. Sport, who was stitched back together, but with its back legs pointing up, lived by devouring door-to-door salesmen and Internal Revenue Service agents.

“Bangor may soon have a Minotaur-like bull statue standing beside its Paul Bunyan, but does it have a Frankenstein-monster dog that feasts of helpless passersby?” asks the writer of the article. “It does not. Thus, Bemidji will always be the true home of Paul and Babe.”

Despite all that hoopla, Bangor has something Bemedji does not have: Paul Bunyan’s birth certificate, which hangs in the Bangor city clerk’s office.

Take that, Minnesota. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.