On Wednesday, April 22, 2009 a public hearing was held to allow Maine residents to comment on a proposed legislative bill to allow full marriage equality in the state. The following remarks were offered by Maine State Senator Dennis Damon as he publicly introduced LD 1020: An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom:
Sen. Bliss, Rep. Priest, esteemed members of the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary, I am Dennis Damon. I am honored to represent the 28th District in the Maine Senate. My district includes twenty-three coastal and island communities in Southern Hancock County, two unorganized territories in the same county and the island of Isle au Haute in Knox County.
I have enjoyed many wonderful days representing the people of my district and of Maine. I have sponsored legislation that I know will benefit Maine and her people for generations to come. Today is one of the most meaningful days of my legislative career. It is today that I am proud to present to you for your consideration, LD 1020-An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.
Rarely do we as legislators have the opportunity and the privilege to introduce legislation that so wholly corrects discrimination and provides the means for us to move forward as a civil society bound by laws. As I stand before you today flanked by my colleagues and supported by family, friends, neighbors and strangers-citizens all of this great state and nation-I feel at once both tiny and huge, tiny because I am but one in this sea of change whose tide is sweeping us now and huge because I am blessed with the honor of presenting this landmark legislation to you and to our law making process. Everyday I feel the responsibility of doing the people's business. Never have I felt it more than today.
At its core this bill allows two people to marry. Any two people who are of legal age; who love each other, who have agreed to support and care for each other, through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer and all the other conditions we ask of them, as long as they each shall live, will be allowed to marry when this bill passes into law. Any two people regardless of their gender or sexuality will be allowed to marry and they will be treated the same in the eyes of Maine law. They will be treated equally.
Additionally, this bill respects religious freedom and it does not require that any church in any religion conduct any marriage ceremony it feels violates its tenants or doctrines. Simply put this bill will allow people to live and let live.
Thomas Jefferson said, "...laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind." Laws and institutions MUST go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. It is my deeply held belief that the progress of the human mind in this state and in this country does not tolerate discrimination, does not tolerate social injustice, and does not tolerate hatred and bigotry. The progress of the human mind does not tolerate homophobia.
The progress of the human mind does embrace and promote love, understanding, compassion, fairness, freedom, liberty and justice for all.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Committee this bill is fair, it allows same sex couples who love one another and who have vowed to spend their lives together supporting and caring for one another the same status and protection under the laws of Maine that opposite sex couples enjoy. It's fair.
This bill is right; it does not set up a fictitious class of ‘separate but equal' status by which we pretend to afford different groups the same rights and privileges. It's right.
This bill's time has come. It relieves the burden which has oppressed us for too long. It recognizes the worth and dignity of every man and every woman among us. It announces to all and verifies that all people; gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, or transgendered must have and will finally have the same rights and protections as everyone else. It's time.
Your task today is enormous. The testimony you are about to receive will be compelling, contradictory, affirming and humbling. It will tug at your heartstrings with compassion and it will redden your face with anger. However, the enormity of your task will be exceeded by the awesome responsibility you bear as you deliberate on today's words and cast your vote on this bill. I encourage you, I support you, and I praise you as you do the people's work.
I have faith in you for you are the sons and daughters of Lady Liberty and Madame Justice. You will not forget: It's fair...It's right...It's time.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this bill to you today. I will be honored to take your questions.