When I listened to Governor John Baldacci of Maine give his speech following his signing of the of the Gay Marriage Bill just a few short hours after receiving the bill, all I could think of was “He got it right”.
I watched and listened to what he said, not as a gay man, but as a citizen of Maine, and the United States. Even though I am gay I have not always agreed with the arguments FOR or AGAINST gay marriage.
It wasn’t until I heard the Governor explain that the new law is about affording equal rights to all Maine citizens as outlined in Maine’s Constitution that it all made sense to me. The Constitution’s first Article states “All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and of pursuing and obtaining safety and happiness.”
Baldacci used this first and most important Article to first understand for himself that allowing Gay Marriage in Maine is not about granting the same rights to gay people that are affording to heterosexual people. He said we are all equal and all deserve the same rights and when he looked at the issue from that perspective, he could not come up with any reasons not to allow Gay Marriage.
He went on further to say that that no religion will be required to conduct same-sex marriages, or even recognize same-sex marriages within the realm of their own belief system because Maine has strict policies about the division of church and State. And Maine whole-heartedly abides by the Church/State tenet.
These are ideas that I had never heard anyone express in this specific manner before; the idea that the State will allow gay civil marriages but it won’t force any church to recognize them. So if, for example, the Catholic Church doesn’t want to recognize gay marriage because it goes against their belief system, they don’t have to. But the Catholic Church can’t tell a gay couple what civil rights they can or cannot have. The same applies to any other religion. On the flip side, a gay couple cannot force a religious organization to perform or recognize their marriage and cannot claim discrimination if that church will not recognize their marriage or perform their marriage ceremony. Under these circumstances, anybody against same-sex marriage CAN hide behind their religion, and take comfort there. But they can not deny rights to others.
I believe that this is as close as anybody is going to get to writing a law that makes sense when defining gay marriage. It covers all the bases. Nobody is forcing anyone to “believe” in anything and those who call themselves “believers” can’t squelch equality and civil rights by hiding behind their religion. So, like the U.S. Constitution has done so many times, it was Maine’s constitution that acted as the final document to guide us through this divisive issue.
Governor Baldacci was never comfortable with the gay marriage issue. But, he found it in himself to understand that legislators, or politicians if you wish, need to take a stand and can not continually defer to public opinion. All of the far lefties, and far righties have had more than enough time to express their viewpoints on this issue, and they have. Neither is a shy group.
The Governor said that he realizes this will not be the last word on the issue. In my opinion, it should be, but it won’t be. Instead of worrying about real problems, the whack jobs are going to come crawling out of the woodwork.
The Maine Legislature and the Governor have laid down the gauntlet. There are no “reasonable” arguments against this law as it was written. First, anybody who protests this law must first say to themselves, and then the public, “I intend to take away the civil rights of others”. Secondly, anybody who intends to use the Bible or their religion as an argument can stop right there. The law clearly states that you don’t have to religiously recognize gay marriage or perform gay marriage if you don’t want to. So what’s left?
Well, there’s the “I simply think it is wrong” argument. Hmmm? Are they also against heterosexual couples who get married and never intend to have children, or those who get married for convenience, or those who get married to obtain property, money, or social status (you know, the reason marriage was invented in the first place). What one “thinks” or “believes” is wrong is immaterial. Because under the Constitution of the State of Maine, all citizens have equal rights and included in that is their right to marry whom they choose as long as it is not breaking any other laws (like the minimum age for marriage or harm to animals).
There is only one argument against Maine’s Gay Marriage law and it’s a faux-argument called “hate, fear, and ignorance” none of which are viable arguments against ANY law. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean some people in Maine won’t mind standing up and saying “I hate, I fear, and I am ignorant” to try and get their way.