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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine

2012-NOV: Governor approves referendum vote.
Marriage licenses available on 2012-DEC-29.
Webmaster's opinion.

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In this section, "SSM" refers to "same-sex marriage, and
"LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2012-NOV-29: Governor signs off on election results. Marriage licenses to become available:

The election results were certified by the Office of the Secretary of State. Governor Paul LePage (R) then signed off on the results on NOV-29. The referendum became effective 30 days later, on 2012-DEC-29.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) reported:

" ' The long wait for marriage for same-sex couples in Maine is almost over,' says Betsy Smith, the executive director of EqualityMaine. 'Before the end of this year, all loving and committed couples in Maine will be able to stand before their friends, family and community and make a lasting vow to be there for one another'."

"On Nov. 6, Maine became the first state to allow loving, committed same-sex couples to receive a marriage license through a popular vote of the people. ..."

" ' There is much to celebrate as we move closer to marriage for same-sex couples in Maine,' says Lee Swislow, the executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). 'We will continue to work closely with state officials and with couples who want to get married to answer as many questions as we can about Maine’s new law'."

"Maine Question 1, "An Act To Allow Marriage Licenses For Same-Sex Couples And Protect Religious Freedom," was approved by the voters 53 to 47 percent."

"This Act:
• Repeals the provision that limits marriage to one man and one woman;

• Authorizes marriage between any two persons who meet the other marriage requirements of state law;

• Specifies that a marriage between two persons of the same-sex in another state that is valid in that state is valid and must be recognized in Maine;

and

• Provides that a member of the clergy is not required to perform marriages and a religious institution is not required to host or perform a marriages in violation of [their] religious beliefs, and that refusal cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or legal liability, and will not affect the tax-exempt status of the religious institution." 1

Thus the Question 1 plebiscite ends up being a mostly win-win situation:

  • Same-sex and opposite-sex couples will be able to marry, restricted only by the usual age and consanguinity limitations of the marriage act. They will receive state marital benefits and protections for themselves and their children, just as opposite-sex married couples do. Same-sex couples did not initially receive any federal benefits or protections because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, this law had been declared unconstitutional by many federal courts. Finally, on 2013-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the federal DOMA law to be unconstitutional. This made same-sex married couples in Maine eligible for the 1,138 federal benefits and protections on a par with opposite-sex couples.

  • Conservative clergy who wish to exercise their religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry then can do so with impunity. They cannot be subjected to lawsuits. They are given immunity by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also by Question 1.

  • In a major victory for religious freedom, liberal clergy are now free to marry loving, committed same-sex couples, for the first time in many years.

  • The only group to have lost anything as a result of Question 1 are mainly religious conservatives who want to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying and who want such couples and their children to be deprived of equal marriage benefits and protections.

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Webmaster's opinion: (Bias alert):

State Rep. Johnson's beliefs are probably based on his faith group's theological position on marriage. If so, then by all means, his church should be free to act on their religious freedom to discriminate against sexual minorities by choosing to refuse to marry loving, committed same-sex couples. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees faith groups this right, and the new Maine marriage law confirms it.

However, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) not withstanding, it is the state government that is authorized by the U.S. Constitution to define who can and who cannot marry. Various states and territories throughout North American history have, at different times and locations redefined marriage. States have:

  • Allowed and later banned polygynous marriages, consisting of one man and multiple women.
  • Restricted the freedom to marriages to non-slaves only and later allowed such marriages to former slaves.
  • Prohibited and later allowed interracial marriages.
  • Prohibited and later allowed marriages by deaf couples.
  • Allowed or prohibited common law marriages.
  • Allowed or prohibited marriage by first cousins.

It is the state government that decides who can marry, issues marriage certificates to couples, registers their marriage, and offers a few hundred benefits and protections to married couples and their children.

A person might feel that their personal interpretation of the Bible represents truth. A faith group may feel the same way, and regulate their practices accordingly by discriminating against same-sex couples. However, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court as erecting a wall of separation of between religion and government. This is often referred to as the "separation of church and state." Thus the state government cannot codify the teaching of one specific faith group into a marriage law. To do so would be to infringe on the religious freedom and liberty of other faith groups that hold different beliefs about marriage eligibility.

On the other hand, if the government defines marriage as the consensual union of two persons of suitable age, then conservative faith groups of every religion are free to refuse to marry same-sex couples, while liberal faith groups of every religion are free to marry same-sex couples. Same-sex couples can then choose to be married by a clergymember in a liberal faith group or in a civil ceremony.

Passage of Question 1 assures that every Mainer's civil rights and religious freedoms -- and those of all faith groups in the state -- are respected. We suspect that in time, everyone will understand that true religious liberty calls for the availability of marriage to all loving, committed couples, whether they be of the same sex or opposite sexes.

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2012-DEC-29: Marriage equality arrived in Maine:

As noted above, the referendum became effective 30 days after the Governor signed off on the election results. This was 2012-DEC-29, which is a Saturday when most government offices are normally closed. However, some offices are always open on Saturdays and some others are planning to open on that day, specifically to handle the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Maine Office of Vital Records and Statistics had new forms designed with changed wording, printed, and distributed to town and city clerks before DEC-29.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Maine Marriage Law Effective on Dec. 29, 2012," GLAD, 2012-DEC-03, at: http://www.glad.org/
  2. Zach Howard, "Save the date: Gay marriages in Maine to start December 29," Reuters, 2012-DEC-03, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  3. Scot Dolan, "Maine gay-marriage law effective Dec. 29," Portland Press Herald, 2012-DEC-04, at: http://www.pressherald.com/
  4. "Maine gay marriage law effective Dec. 29." Associated Press, 2012-DEC-03, at: http://seattletimes.com/

Copyright © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-DEC-05
Latest update: 2014-JAN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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