Tuesday, November 18, 2008

As Maine Goes...

Mainers lack Southern graciousness and Midwestern timidity, but they remain a hard sell on fundamentals. Whether it's high fashion or the latest in politics, Portland and even Orono aren't where trend spotters congregate. As famous as the state used to be as Presidential bellwether, it still means quite a bit when its residents move together.

I predict that this year or next, we're going to see a lot of meaningful marriage-equality action up North.

Some of the most serious nasties up there are asthenic miniatures of their former anti-gay growlers. Yet, the state is small enough and traditional enough that it never leads the social vanguard.

There's a slim chance though that the legislature could pass same-sex marriage. It is statistically possible; Equality Maine tallies 23 of 35 senators and 82 of 151 representatives as pro-marriage equality.

However, leaping from the 2004 form of domestic partnership to SSM would not be easy. For a bit of history, Mainers overturned pretty basic gay rights (minimal anti-discrimination wording in credit, education, employment, housing and public accommodation) on ballot initiatives. This June, however, citizens soundly rejected a new effort to undo the work of the legislature and governor in this area. Going the Massachusetts/Connecticut route may be too fast.

On the other hand, the group who led the anti-gay forces has fallen badly out of favor. The Christian Civic League of Maine tucked itself under the wing of Focus on the family and changed its name to Maine Family Policy Council. It can no longer raise the funds or primitive outrage among the locals. Not only did its Doomsday prediction for SSM-tainted Massachusetts prove totally wrong again and again and again, but Mainers came out to friends, congregants, co-workers and others, revealing themselves to be the same likable and similar peers, as they were when folk assumed them straight.

For fellow travelers, the fundy churches are pretty small and weak as a group. Moreover, the Roman Catholic one, under Portland's Bishop Richard Malone is not big or powerful either, certainly a wan version of Massachusetts God/politics machine.

Pic note: The image is from an uncopyrighted site, but apparently by Lois Czerniak. The bishop was blessing a two-nun hermitage — a baked goods and prayer shop, replete with on-line store and Super Hot Sauce -- "many people tell us it's by far the best they've ever tasted!

His smallish influence doesn't stop him from trying to remain the opinion former. He decries SSM, although someone needs to tutor him on the grammar of using quotes for slurs. For example in the link, he puts "same sex" in quotes instead of "marriage." He need to remember whom he's trying to insult here.

In his recent homily on the subject, he falls back on the old your-sexual-organs-prove-my-point argument. A man and a women fit together sexually. This can lead to babies. That's God's intent and all you need to know.

This theology by genitalia is a subset of what I heard at the winger The Future of Marriage lectures yesterday. The procreation thing is much like "it's only common sense" and such that you say when you don't have real reasons and refuse to think about the question. It also overlooks that gay and lesbian couples can adopt, or have aided child creation as straight couples do, or choose not to have children, also as many, many different-sex couples decide.

In addition, the anti-SSM crowd likes to have the reproduction thing several ways. For one it says that homosexuals make up a tiny fraction of us. For another, if we permit SSM, birth rates will plunge, imperiling the future of humanity. In reality, a far greater controller of births is different-sexed couples who cannot or will not make babies. Coupled with the high divorce rate for that group, there are areas that the what-God-intends folk need to concern themselves with instead.

Once you get up with the colorful cassock crowd, you don't see to get a lot of dissent. The bishop doesn't even has a wife to keep him alert and honest. To his credit, he doesn't pretend as many other anti types do that modern marriage predates formal society, going back many thousands of years. Yet, he does assert that a couple of verses of the gospels directly translate into a totally analogous definition and support for a form of marriage that has only been common for a couple of hundred years. Also, perhaps understandably considering his profession, he conflates the civil contract we have always used in America and which we inherited from England and Europe with his church's rituals.

Seemingly cynically, he uses an infant's baptism to insinuate his politically based homily. He led with, "Marriage, as it has been known and lived for millennia, is under attack in our country, and now, in our own state." He claims that the diocese "has been unwavering in its support of hospital visitation rights or the sharing of health insurance benefits between household members, people choosing to live together whatever their sexual orientation. That only seems fair. However, to insist that complementarity of sexes is a fundamental prerequisite for marriage is not to be unfair." In that vein, he works to the zinger in citing "the Catechism of the Catholic Church, stating the Church’s authoritative teaching when it declares that homosexual persons “…must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

We must assume that to support marriage on the bishop's terms, we can and must discriminate against homosexual couples. After all, his homily delineates among types of discrimination.

We can look to him as well as the previous opponents of gay rights and SSM. Both draw from the same well of weak arguments and unsupported claims. I can't surmise whether marriage equality will come before the Maine legislature this session or the next, nor how those chambers will act on it. I can say with some assuredness that the anti-equality forces will have to do more than pretend civilization ends if a couple whose genitals don't plug in just so get married.

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