Same sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions
LD 1118 to expand the
domestic partner benefits
Bill LD 1118 launched:
Representative Leslie Fossel (R-Alna) introduced a bill
on 2009-MAR-20 that he said would avoid a "culture war" over same-sex
marriage. His bill would extend the full set of state rights and
responsibilities -- normally given only to opposite-sex married couples -- to same-sex
couples who are enrolled in the state's domestic partner registry.
According to Judy Harrison of the Bangor Daily News:
"Proponents of same-sex marriage said they would oppose
Fossel?s bill because it would create a separate institution for gay and
lesbian couples while supporters of traditional marriage said they would
oppose both bills. ..."
About "traditional marriage:"
"traditional marriage" is an expression that is a synonym of "opposite-sex marriage."
Many religious and social conservatives believe that same-sex marriage (SSM)
represents a grave threat to "traditional marriage." Thus they feel that in
order to support "traditional marriage" they must aggressively oppose SSM. For example,
2004, Dr. James Dobson of the fundamentalist Christian group "Focus on the
Family" wrote about the threat to American's opposite-sex married couples:
"Dear Friends, I write to you today with a profound sense of
concern...Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than
five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization
"For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to
implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction
of the family." 2
Such conservative beliefs are
threatened by divorce data from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This was
the first state to legalize SSM. It also has had the lowest divorce rate in
the United States for many years now. Talk to Action reports:
"In 2004 the Massachusetts divorce rate, at 2.2 per 1,000 residents per
year, was considerably lower than the US national average rate for that year,
3.8 per 1,000. Indeed, it was lower than the national average rate for 1950
(2.6 per 1,000) and even approached the national rate of 1940 (2 per 1,000). "
"In 2003, total divorces in Massachusetts declined 2.1% relative to 2002.
But in the first two years of legal same sex marriage in the Bay
State, Massachusetts showed a more rapid decline and will very likely hold on
to its title as the US state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation.
"[T]he group of US states...which have passed both state laws and also
state constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage, lag
dramatically in terms of divorce rate improvement when compared to same sex
marriage friendly states."
"Among those US states that are most opposed to same sex marriage
which have also provided divorce data for the time period...the average
divorce rate (unadjusted for population changes) for 2004 and the first 11
months of 2005 increased 1.75%. This group contains 4 of the 5 states with the
highest divorce rate increases in the US during 2004 and the first 11 months
of 2005." 2
About bill LD 1118:
Judy Harrison continues:
" 'When Senator Damon announced his bill,' Fossel said, 'I could see
another culture war coming and that what?s happened. As with a whole lot of
issues in the state, the money and energy always seems to be on one side or
another, but the way communities work is in finding consensus'."
" 'The question, for me, became how to ensure equal rights to everyone
without changing the definition of marriage,' he continued. 'I think we can do
that because the way we make change in this country is we change the law, then
we change minds, and the words and the definitions [in the vernacular] follow
"Fossel has said that his bill was not intended to create civil unions that
have been made legal in other states." 1
The bill states that:
"... registered domestic partners have the same rights,
protections and benefits and are subject to the same responsibilities,
obligations and duties under law, whether they derive from statute,
administrative rule, court rule, government policy, common law or any other
provision or source of law, as are granted to and imposed upon spouses."
Opposition to the bill:
Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, opposes the bill
"... separate is inherently not equal. It does not confer the same kind of
dignity and respect marriage does. It?s being married that carries dignity and
respect. Marriage says that we?re in a loving, committed relationship, that we
intend to take care of each other and, maybe, raise children together. We
don?t get that with domestic partnerships."
The Maine Family Policy Council, -- formerly called the Christian
Civic League of Maine -- favors reducing loving committed same sex couples
to the status of roommates, and recognizing their children as illegitimate. They
and the Main Marriage Alliance -- a coalition of religious and social
conservative pastors, congregations and other individuals -- favor enshrining
the Maine Defense of Marriage Act in the state constitution.
Michael Heath, the Council's executive director, said that his group is:
"... very much opposed [to bill LD 1118 and LD 1120]. We reject Rep.
Fossel?s bill based on the principle that the law ought not to recognize
privileges or benefits outside of traditional marriage. We?ve never supported
civil unions and I can?t see us supporting domestic partnership laws."
Marc Mutty, director of public policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of
Portland, has not read the bill but commented:
"My first reaction is that it won?t fly with this Legislature. It appears
that the proponents of same-sex marriage are not interested in compromise."
There doesn't seem to be much support for LD 1118.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Judy Harrison, "New same-sex bill aims to avoid 'culture war:' Alternative
bill to same-sex marriage rolls off press," Bangor Daily News, 2009-MAR-20,
- Bruce Wilson, "Christian Right Wrong On Gay Marriage in Massachusetts,"
Talk to Action, 2006-JUL-13, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2009-JAN-14
Latest update: 2009-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson