“Mainers vote down gay-marriage law” screamed the banner headline on the Portland Press Herald. The cover photograph, however, was of Frank Schubert, the California carpetbagger who led the Yes on 1 campaign, exulting in victory.
How very fitting.
Like the majority of voters here in greater Portland, I was greatly disappointed in the outcome of the Nov. 3 referendum to repeal Maine’s marriage equality law. In Yarmouth, where I live, 66 percent of the voters favored keeping the law that would have allowed same-gender marriages. The church I attend voted overwhelming to allow our pastors to perform same-gender covenanting ceremonies 10 years ago, for heaven’s sake.
In hindsight, however, I wonder why I ever thought that Maine would break with the rest of the country and support gay marriage. We could have made history. As Maine goes, etc. Instead, we became the 31st state to reject gay marriage.
When you look at the election results you see that No on 1 only prevailed in four of Maine’s 16 counties – Cumberland, Hancock, Knox, and York, home to Maine’s more affluent, educated and progressive coastal populace. Inland and upstate it was a different story. Yes, folks, there really are two Maines – one that lives in the present, another that’s wedded to the past.
As everyone seems to understand though, legalization of same-sex marriage is inevitable. As I see it, it’s just a matter of my generation passing away and my daughters’ generation taking control. Tess, 18, cast her first vote on Nov.3 and she was as disappointed in the outcome on Question 1 as I was. She actually thought it was going to pass easily. That’s because her friends don’t even understand what all the fuss was about. Of course gay and lesbian people should have the same rights as everyone else. Duh!
Tess would have been a lot more upset by the referendum vote, however, were she a lesbian. Most referendum votes are about issues, but Question 1 was about identity. Maine voted against who some of its citizens are. It told some families that they are not legitimate. When you come right down to it, marriage equity is probably not something we should be voting on at all. I have a funny feeling African-Americans still wouldn’t have civil rights in some Southern states if it were a matter of popular vote.
My greatest disappointment about Question 1, other than the fact that it succeeded, was that the Catholic Church was the driving force behind the anti-gay marriage campaign. In California, Mormons got the credit or the blame for the rejection of gay marriage. In Maine, we have the Catholic Church to thank or blame. I have no problem with the Catholic Church not sanctioning gay marriage for Catholics, but I have a big problem with it forcing its religious views on the rest of us. It’s like saying no one can practice birth control because the Catholic Church is opposed to it.
Does that make me anti-Catholic? I don’t think so. But I have lost a great deal of respect for the Catholic hierarchy. Practice and preach what you will, but don’t try to dictate public policy for everyone else based on your own religious beliefs.
That said, I confess that I find the Catholic Church’s stand against gay marriage somewhat hypocritical, coming as it does from a church that has failed to come to grips with homosexuality in its own priesthood. If you teach someone that his natural instincts are sinful and shameful, you shouldn’t be surprised if he ends up expressing his sexuality inappropriately. I suspect there is a certain degree of self-loathing involved in the Catholic leadership’s campaign against gay marriage.
Homosexuality is natural and healthy. It’s just that homosexuals are a minority. They are misunderstood, feared, and targets of discrimination. That’s what makes gay marriage a civil rights matter.
Maine got it wrong this time. We will eventually get it right. In the meantime, the Yes on 1 forces have pretty much obligated Maine schools to do exactly what gay marriage opponents like Frank Schubert warned they would do – teach our children the truth about homosexuality and about the moral and legal issues surrounding equality in marriage.