In reflecting on last year's passage of a gay marriage referendum in Maine, Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, described the debate as “exceedingly fast.”

Smith is stepping down after 14 years on the job.

Marriage equality has been the group's focus over the last 7 years. Setbacks included a gubernatorial veto and a people's veto that repealed a marriage law approved by lawmakers.

Undaunted, supporters returned to the polls last year and won, making Maine the first state to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples through the ballot box.

“When we decided we really had won this and we were going to call it, we went downstairs and made our way to the stage,” Smith, 53, told The Bangor Daily News. “People had their arms up. People were screaming, making so much noise. Everybody was cheering. I took a mental picture of it. I can still see it today. I am never going to forget this. It really was the culminating highlight of my time at Equality Maine.”

“It's a civil rights movement, and civil rights movements are long, long-term efforts that build. We knew we had to keep going … for some younger people who weren't around earlier or people who just moved to Maine, the marriage effort felt long. But for those of us who were here before, we won marriage exceedingly fast.”