SSM and domestic partnerships in Maine
National support for SSM.
|From the Maine Marriage Initiative, a Roman Catholic website opposing marriage equality:|
"Marriages should be strengthened, not redefined."
"Traditions are created when society embraces them." 1
Lucie Bauer of Rockport, ME commenting on her marriage to her partner Annie last August in California said on the occasion of passage of a SSM bill in the Maine senate: "That was a bittersweet occasion: wonderful to be married but bitter because it wasn?t recognized in my home state and community."
The Angus-Reid Global Monitor reported that two of their recent national polls (2008-JUN and DEC) indicate a 44% support for SSM. This, combined with polls by other agencies shows that support for SSM continues to increase in the U.S. and is slowly approaching a majority. Meanwhile, those undecided are gradually decreasing in numbers.
In late 2008, Jay McDonough published a fascinating graph on his "swimming freestyle" weblog titled: "Gay marriage will be legal by 2012." The graph is too tiny to read clearly. It shows the decline in opposition to SSM (in red), the rise in support for SSM (in blue) and the stagnation of the the number of "don't knows, from 1986 to 2006. The vertical axis runs from 0 to 100%. 2 The horizontal line half-way up the graph is the 50% support level -- the goal for many gays, lesbians, bisexuals, civil rights promoters, religious liberals, etc. It also represents a "Disaster of the Hindenburg class" for most religious and social conservatives, who regard SSM as "counterfeit marriage."
It may be worthwhile comparing support for SSM with support for inter-racial marriages in the late 20th century. In the latter case:
|90% of Americans opposed inter-racial marriages in 1948 when the State of California legalized them throughout that state.|
|72% opposed such marriages in 1967 when the Supreme Court legalized them throughout the U.S. in the famous and ironically named "Loving v. Virginia" case.|
|Support for marriage equality on the basis of race only became a majority in 1991. 3,4|
There were 62 lawmakers in Maine who had gone on record as supporting LD 1120 and same-sex marriage in the state. The list includes 62 Democrats and 1 Republican. The lone Republican is Rep. Strang Burgess (R-Cumberland). A list of sponsors is available online. 5 Sen. Dennis Damon, (D-Trenton) sponsored the bill: LD 1020, "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom."
The "religious freedom" referred to is the freedom by which faith groups and
congregations will be able to continue discriminating against marrying
same-sex couples if SSM is legalized.
"There are all kinds of reasons not to sign, so I didn't pressure anyone. I know there are a lot of people, including some in my own caucus, who are very concerned about it."
He estimates that about 90% of the messages that he has received on SSM favor its adoption.
The Legislature's Judiciary Committee originally scheduled a public hearing to discuss the bill in Cony High School in Augusta, ME. However, because of the anticipated response they changed the time to APR-22 and the location to the Augusta Civic Center.
As of 2009-MAR-27, 3,000 petitions had been sent via Equality Maine to state legislators; they hoped to get 5,000 by the time of the public hearing. 6 They suggest writing about one or two of the following talking points:
|"Loving, committed same-sex couples need and deserve all the rights
that come with being married.|
|Marriage tells the community that two people are committed to each other
and are a family. Same-sex couples need this as much as opposite-sex couples
|Children of same-sex couples are harmed when their parents do not receive
all the protections of marriage.|
|Excluding same-sex couples from marriage -- or creating separate
institutions, like civil unions and domestic partnerships -- marks them and
their children as less worthy than other citizens.|
|Sen. Damon's bill upholds freedom of religion. This bill is about civil marriage, and leaves decisions about religious ceremonies to faith leaders." 6|
On the order of 4,000 people attended the public meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Augusta Civic Center. The meeting began at about 9:30 in the morning and lasted "well into the night." 7
Betsy Smith of Equality Maine -- a non-profit that supports SSM -- said of the meeting:
"We out-numbered our opponents 4 to 1. It was history in the making ? and a giant step forward in winning marriage in Maine. Nearly 4,000 of us crowded into the Augusta Civic Center yesterday to tell the Judiciary Committee that the time has come to give LGBT families the protections and recognition of marriage."
"Clad in red shirts, ties, jackets and scarves, we drove from every corner of the state to support the marriage bill. I?ll never forget the sea of red that filled the auditorium, and the roars of approval that greeted the powerful remarks of Senator Dennis Damon ..." 8
Senator Dennis S. Damon (D-Trenton), who introduced bill LD 1020 to legalize SSM, said:
"This bill is fair. This bill's time has come. It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us."
Roman Catholic Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Portland testified in opposition to the bill. He said:
"We speak in opposition to same-sex marriage because we are deeply concerned about the institution of marriage itself -- in this state, and in this nation." 7
The Catholic Church has launched the Main Marriage Initiative: a web site opposing SSM. Their home page admits that the present system is unfair. The site begins:
"Its not about fairness. It's about doing what's right."
"Proponents claim that it's about basic fairness, and that same-sex couples are denied rights offered to heterosexual couples. But the truth is that Maine's Domestic Partnership laws already confer many of the rights offered to heterosexual couples to same-sex couples. And changing the definition of marriage won't help create other rights, which are controlled by the federal government." 1
Supporters of SSM suggest that the battle over SSM very definitely is about fairness and equal treatment of all loving, committed couples. The domestic partnership laws cannot give same-sex couples one of the most important benefits of marriage: the word itself. Everybody knows what marriage means; domestic partnerships are considered inherently separate, unequal, and distinctly inferior. If you doubt that statement, imagine how many married opposite-sex couples would be willing to turn in their marriage certificate for a domestic partnership certificate.
It is true that SSM would only give loving, committed same-sex couples a few hundred state benefits of marriage. The federal DOMA act prevents them from receiving about 1,100 federal benefits, protections, responsibilities, etc. However, when a substantial number of states allow such couples to marry and obtain their state's rights, the pressure will mount to repeal the federal DOMA act so that real marriage equity will be available to all married couples in Maine and elsewhere.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2009-JAN-14
Latest update: 2009-MAY-08
Author: B.A. Robinson
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