'Don't ask, don't tell' doesn't matter: South Portland military museum hosts 'spectacular soiree'
SOUTH PORTLAND — A showcase of gay-friendly wedding services finally had its day on Tuesday, Feb. 23, more than three months after it was originally scheduled.
The event dubbed a "spectacular soiree" for attendees of the Downeast Pride Alliance, a local network of gay-friendly businesses, was originally scheduled for Nov. 4, 2009.
It was originally intended to celebrate the defeat of the citizen's initiate to repeal Maine's gay marriage law. But when the repeal passed, the event was cancelled.
"When the election went south in November, we though it couldn't be a good time," said Sid Tripp, co-sponsor of the Downeast Pride Alliance. "But (we) felt that it was important to still show our support."
The event Tuesday took place at the Maine Military Museum's Annex on Peary Terrace at a time when a national debate over the military's "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy on gays in the military is heating up across the nation.
The irony did not go unnoticed by organizers or attendees.
"We're at a VFW hall, which is kind of odd," said Geoffry Starrett, of Portland. "I was just joking – is this the first step to repealing don't ask, don't tell?"
Displays also included award-winning photographer Doug Haley of Cosmic Castle Photography and Karen Carey, owner of Kosmein Skin Care Center.
Carney said she felt it was important to show her support and offer her services to the gay community, which can still enter into domestic partnerships.
"(My friends) are planning their 20th year," Carney said. "They were so disappointed that they can't have that full commitment."
Museum owner Lee Humiston, who has a gay son, said he gave event organizers the newly minted Embassy Ball Room for free. Manager Stephen Popp said the room is open to anyone, regardless of sexual preference or political persuasion.
"People are people, business is business and community is community," Popp said.
Tripp, co-sponsor of the Downeast Pride Alliance, said that as publicity for the event began to increase, more and more businesses wanted to be involved. Tripp said Maine lost an estimated $60 million to $70 million in business related to gay weddings as a result of the November vote.
"People are coming out of the woodwork to show their support," Tripp said. "Fifty-two percent of the state said no, but 48 percent said yes. It's that 48 percent that are standing up and saying we support this and we want this to happen in our state."
For most in attendance, it wasn't a matter of if, but when, gay marriage will become legal in Maine.
Attorney Matthew Dubois said he hopes his clients will one day no longer have to draft complex legal documents to protect themselves when either they or they partners get sick or pass away.
"I am very hopeful that history is moving in the direction of equal marriage," he said. "Maine's vote, while unfortunate, illustrated that close to half the population already sees the importance of equal marriage. It's just a matter of time."
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org