From volunteer to full-time advocate, Beth Allen aims for marriage in Maine

For the past three years, Beth Allen has had her eyes fixed firmly on winning the freedom to marry in Maine for her family and for thousands of other families like hers. Through her work with Equality Maine and Mainers United for Marriage, Beth has had hundreds of personal conversations with Mainers about marriage and has coached many volunteers in similar conversations about why marriage matters for same-sex couples.

Through her work as Deputy Regional Field Director for Mainers United for Marriage, the coalition working to proactively win marriage for all couples at the ballot in November, Beth has seen hundreds of Maine residents take the time to stop and consider the importance of marriage.

That's the key difference from her work this year and her work from Fall 2009, when anti-gay activists pushed through a ballot measure to repeal the legislatively approved marriage law. In 2009, when Beth took six weeks off from her job before Election Day to volunteer for the marriage fight, the campaign was more focused on getting supporters to commit to coming out to the polls. This time around, Beth and other volunteers are actively talking to Mainers who may be undecided on how they feel about the freedom to marry.

That strategic change was what motivated Beth to dedicate herself full-time to winning marriage in Maine. She knows that talking to those middle voters is essential to winning at the ballot. She also knows that her personal narrative as a mother building a family with her long-term partner and two children, an 8-year-old and a 2-year-old, can function as a powerful representative for the same-sex couples affected by this ballot measure.

A year and a half ago, when Equality Maine began mounting its campaign to put marriage back on the ballot, Beth knew that she needed to get involved. So she left her job as a case manager for a non-profit organization that works with children with mental and behavioral health issues and signed on full-time with Mainers United.

"I felt like I spent twelve years advocating for other people's kids," Beth said. "And while they were kids who needed someone to advocate for them and families that needed someone to advocate for them, I knew that it was time for me to go and advocate for my own family."

Beth and her partner Valerie have been together for five years. They live in Fletcher's Landing Township with 2-year-old Oakley and 8-year-old Fiona, who Beth had been raising since before meeting Valerie.

For Beth, protecting her children is one of the most important motivations for getting involved in the campaign.

"My 8-year-old is now at the point where she really understands what's going on," Beth said. "She asked me a while ago what a civil union was, and she asked why my partner and I needed to have something different from marriage. It broke my heart to have her thinking that her family is somehow different from the families of the kids she goes to school with. It's really important to both of my kids to know that their family is equal."

Beth and Valerie know that they want to get married - but they've only spoken sparingly about specifics for a wedding, not willing to jinx the upward momentum the Maine campaign has seen this year. The one thing they have definitely decided, however, is that they want to get married in Maine, the place where they've made their home.

"It would be really validating to know that the state that I have grown up in and have lived in now recognizes my family," Beth said.

"We've talked about whether we'd want to get married in New Hampshire," she said, explaining that she has family there and that it's not a far drive from Maine. "But there's this big, green bridge that everyone crosses on 95 in order to get from New Hampshire to Maine. I hate the idea that every time I come across that bridge to come home, our relationship wouldn't be recognized - that piece of paper wouldn't mean anything. I just feel like when I get that license from the state, I want it to be a real license. I need to have it be real when I actually make that commitment."

Editors' Note: On November 6, 2012, voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington will be voting on marriage-related ballot measures. Mainers are being asked to vote YES on Question 1 to proactively pass the freedom to marry at the ballot. Residents in Washington and Maryland are being asked to vote to APPROVE Referendum 74 and to vote FOR Question 6, respectively, to uphold marriage laws passed by their state legislatures in February and March 2012. Minnesotans are being asked to vote NO on a proposed amendment that would constitutionally exclude same-sex couples from marriage. In these next two months before the election, Freedom to Marry will be profiling couples and volunteers for the state campaigns. Read more about the ballot initiatives HERE, and check back on the blog over the next five weeks for couples' stories.