Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine
Are the fears generated by anti-SSM ads valid?
Much of the opposition to marriage equality being
promoted by religious conservatives in their videos and TV ads is based on fear
that if SSM is legalized in Maine:
- Lesbians and gays might launch lawsuits against individuals, companies and
- Public schools would be required to promote homosexuality, and
- Churches and other religious institutions who disapprove of SSM and/or
refuse to marry same-sex couples would lose
their tax exempt status.
1. Fear of lawsuits:
The fear is that SSM would trigger large numbers of lawsuits against individuals, small businesses and religious groups
by lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
Fortunately, we have past examples to look at. SSM has been available in
Massachusetts and Canada for many years. If lawsuits would materialize in
Maine in the future over SSM, they certainly would have already have been launched in these other political
In fact, very few such lawsuits have occurred. We were able to find one case
in Canada involving a Christian religious group breaking a legal
contract with a lesbian in 2003, but that is all.
We conclude that this fear is
groundless, unless of course religious groups make contracts and then
2. Fear of homosexual indoctrination in public schools:
The fear is that if SSM is allowed, public schools in Maine would have to
change their course content in order to actively promote homosexuality.
Many citizens of main were apparently concerned over this matter after
viewing some anti-SSM videos. They approached the Maine Department of
Education with concerns over the possible future promotion of homosexuality in the public
Commissioner Susan A. Gendron, asked Attorney General Janet T. Mills what
implications the enabling legislation for SSM in Maine
1 -- would
course content in the event that Question 1 -- the 2009 referendum
-- is defeated.
AG Mills responded (in part):
"My office's analysis of the issue reveals no impact on the curricula of
Maine's public schools."
LD 1020, as enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the
Governor on May 6, 2009, expands the availability of civil marriage to
couples of the same gender. ..."
"I have scoured Maine laws relating to the education of its children for any
references to marriage in the public school curricula. I have found none."
"As you are well aware, the guidelines for Maine?s public school curricula are
established by the ?Maine Learning Results,? which set out educational standards
for mathematics, reading, science and technology, as well as minimum graduation
requirements in English, math, science and other core subjects. These guidelines
are then reviewed at the local level as locally elected school boards determine
the exact content of each district?s curricula. Nothing in state law dictates
that any particular text books or other reading materials should be used or made
available in the public schools."
"In fact, for parents concerned about educational practices in Maine,
safeguards for persons with religious beliefs are already provided in the law:
The Maine Learning Results statute, 20-A M.R.S.A. sec. 6209, requires
'accommodation provisions for instances where course content conflicts with
sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of a student?s parent or
"Thus, if parents with religious beliefs which do not permit them to vote do
not wish their children to be taught about their duty to vote in civics classes,
for instance, they could seek accommodation under this law. Likewise, parents
with religious beliefs which prohibit dancing might seek accommodation for their
child regarding physical education classes that involved dancing. (See Dept. of
Educ. 05 071 CMR 127-3.07, which requires the local superintendent to make
accommodations before asking the Commissioner for assistance.)."
"The political process, to which the courts often refer, also provides a
recourse for families who wish to participate in the development of curricula in
their local schools. See 20-A M.R.S.A. secs. 1001(6) & (10-A) (duty of the
school board to 'approve educational materials')."
"I have reviewed the one Massachusetts case cited by certain advocates in
opposition to the marriage measure passed by our legislature. That case, Parker
v. Hurley, 514 F.3d 87 (1st Cir.2008), cert. den., 129 S.Ct. 56 (U.S.2008), does
not stand for the proposition that any particular educational materials must be
taught, used or referred to in that state?s public schools. That case declared,
regardless of that state?s definition of marriage, that there is no federal
First Amendment right to prior review of books made available in the public
schools. The case does pointedly make reference to the parents? political
recourse through the local school board."
"Importantly, there was no allegation in the Parker case of 'a formalized
curriculum requiring students' to read books 'affirming gay marriage' or
anything that constituted 'coercion' or any viable claim of 'indoctrination,'
according to the court, ibid, 105-07; any such practices which offend religious
beliefs would probably have been struck down. Nor did the decision turn on any
provision of state law relating to either marriage or education."
"The holding of the Parker case would apply to any parents who might not want
their child to be exposed to certain viewpoints in a public school, whether it
be discussions limited only to traditional heterosexual marriage; or depictions
of adoption families, foster care and other nontraditional family situations; or
discussions of differing theories of government, religion, philosophy, science
or history. Parker simply states that there is no automatic federal judicial
remedy for such objections to educational materials."
"Whatever the benefits and burdens of the civil institution of marriage, the
state's definition of marriage has no bearing on the curricula in our public
schools, either under current law or under LD 1020. Neither the Parker decision
nor passage of LD 1020 'requires' or 'allows' the teaching of any particular
subject in our schools, in answer to the citizen question attached to your
"What is taught in private or religious schools, of course, may include the
principles and religious tenets of those organizations regarding family
institutions and other subjects, and nothing in LD 1020 would change that
prerogative of private or religious institutions to instill those beliefs in
their children either at home or at their schools."
2 (Emphasis by us)
This fear appears to be groundless as well.
3. Fear that churches would lose their tax-exempt status:
The fear is that church organizations could lose their tax exempt
status because of their conscientious objection to same-sex marriage.
and other tax exempt groups are always at risk of losing their tax status if
they choose to be actively engaged in the political process -- for example by urging their
congregation to vote for specific candidates. However, we have been unable to
find any cases where churches have lost their tax status because of their
social teachings, theological teachings, or simply because their pastor read some of the Bible's
The Roman Catholic Church has taught for over a millennia that women are not
eligible for ordination; so have many other conservative faith groups.
Catholic priests have occasionally refused to marry couples if the man is
physically disabled. Some faith groups have promoted racial segregation and
taught racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, xenophobia, hatred and/or
denigration of other religions, etc. for years.
The only case of which we are aware where there was some agitation to
have the government remove a tax status involved The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints'
because of its racism. That never materialized and was
made unnecessary when the main Mormon Church received what they sincerely
believed was a revelation from God many decades ago, and started to ordain African
Attorney General Janet T. Mills' letter referred to above
"The enabling legislation for SSM in Maine (LD 1020, PL 2009, ch. 82, "An Act
to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom") ...
allows a specific religious conscience exception, prohibiting any court or
state or local governmental entity from interfering with any religious
institution's policy or teachings."
So, we conclude that this fear is groundless as well.
If marriage equality is achieve in Maine:
|There is little or no danger of numerous lawsuits launched by
lesbians, gays or bisexuals, if experience in other political jurisdictions is
|No significant changes would be required in the public school
|There is no danger of religious groups losing their tax exempt status
because of their rejection of SSM or refusal to marry same-sex couples. Of
course, such religious groups are in danger of losing members -- particularly
youth and young adults -- who regard homophobia as
an evil comparable to sexism, racism, and religism (hatred and denigration of
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "LD 1020: An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm
Religious Freedom," Main Legislature, at:
http://www.mainelegislature.org/ It is available in MS-Word, RTF or PDF
- Susan A. Gendron, "Attorney General Mills Issues Opinion on the
Implications of LD 1020 on Maine School Curricula," Maine Attorney General,
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2009-OCT-18
Latest update: 2009-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson