Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mainers Hand Gay Marriage to Governor

Up in the Yankee Augusta, the Maine House fell in line with the Senate, passing same-sex marriage (LD 1020). The vote was 89 to 58 (adjusted later to 89 to 57).

As a formality in this case, the Senate must concur, but this is a done deal...short of the governor's action.

Listening to a couple of hours of the testimony live, I got the firm sense that the opposition had accepted the vote long before it occurred. Several representatives predicted a following plebiscite (a.k.a. People's Veto). They added that they expected to reverse the decision.

In the way is Gov. Baldacci. He is wishy-washy, not promising to veto or sign or let the bill pass untouched. While he mumbled weak marriage is one man/one woman, there is no passion. By the bye, the House as it voted does not have enough proponents to override a veto.

If the bill becomes law and if the opponents get 10% of the vote numbers for the last governor's race on petitions, there will be a referendum to overturn it. For a state making the shift from legal domestic partnership to SSM, ripping back a legal right granted by the legislature would be a tough sell.

As it was, the arguments opposing the bill were pretty weak and illogical. A couple of lawmakers tried the old a man and a woman fit physically and make their own babies. As usual, there was no corresponding admission that many opposite-sex couples were not healthy for their children, nor any recognition that many couples, regardless of genders, adopt, use medical help to reproduce, cannot reproduce or choose not to do so.

The baby-making argument is pale and frail.

One opponent, Sheryl Briggs (D-Mexico), illustrated the befuddled traditionalist. She said she has known one of her daughters has been an out lesbian for 15 years. Briggs voted against the bill despite this. The underlying justification went to the heart of the cultural divide. She consistently referred to her daughter's "choice," as in "lifestyle she has chosen."

On the other side, the speakers were similar to those the judiciary committee hearings in New Hampshire and Maine. There was a good mix of the personal, legal and logical from the representative. One, David Webster (D-Freeport), noted that some religions and Protestant churches support SSM and others do not. As a legislature, he said he had not right or intent to legislate any religion's dogma over another's.

For example, Briggs' testimony led immediately to that from Emily Ann Cain (D-Orono). She noted that 1020 "does not create same-sex couples in Maine." Instead, it affirms "what already exists." She asked others to join her "simply asking for fairness and equal treatment under law for what already exists in Maine."

Another supporter, Veronica Magnan (D-Stockton Springs) was a counterpoint to opponents. She is middle-aged and a lifelong Christian. She said she was "born again in the spirit in 1972." However, she and her fundamentalist church parted ways on such issues as gay rights as the church became more radical. In her mind, the argument that a family requires a father and mother to work is not the norm from what she has seen in her life. Instead "two committed adults have made the difference." She made it very plain she was pro-marriage, for SS couples as well.

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