Same-Sex Unions Will Enhance the Traditions of Marriage
Gay couples deserve the benefits of marriage as a matter of civil rights and social justice.
CommonDreams.org Editor's Note: This year, the Maine State Legislature and Governor Baldacci - with the rousing support of Maine residents - passed one of the most comprehensive Marriage Equality laws in the country. Opponents of equality have now forced a statewide vote to challenge the new law. The Vote No on #1 Campaign - which supports marriage equality - is fighting bravely against the misleading and hateful campaign lead by those who would deny equal rights to our gay, lesbian, and transgendered neighbors. The following was written (full disclosure) by this editor's father, but it appears here as testimony to the dignity and strength of those who fight, think, and activate on behalf of those who are denied the rights that others enjoy. Let Maine's battle against those standing in the way of equality not go the way of California's. In the end, this battle will be national and then global. But for now, we must fight it where the lines are drawn.
SCARBOROUGH, Maine — The headline of the Sept. 14 Maine Voices commentary by Tim Russell – co-founder of The Maine Marriage Alliance – reads: "There's lots of proof same-sex marriage will harm the rights of others." We read the column to find there is no proof whatsoever and lots of opinion based on religion.
Without the rule of law – remembering that laws change and evolve – there would have been no advances in civil rights, and the "Rights of Man" would have never given rise to freedom in France and America by limiting the power of kings and nobles.
Without the rule of law – remembering that laws change and evolve – there would have been no freedom from slavery, no women's suffrage and no civil rights movement. And, of course, those changes in the law, and in society, always followed great struggle.
So over time and with struggle, we reinterpret what is right and become more inclusive as we discover that the changes sought in the name of social justice are good for the larger society – even when they are at first very difficult for those who have had to accommodate change against their will, like the nobility of Europe, the king of England and white men everywhere.
Mr. Russell begins his column by asserting that: "Traditional marriage is more substantial and profound than can be contained in our society's current conception of 'love' and 'equality.'"
That is absolutely true. That is why it is so important for all people to have access to traditional marriage. That is the very point. Gay couples don't want to eliminate the "substantial and profound" traditions of marriage. As a matter of civil rights and social justice, they want access to these traditions – just like every other citizen.
Mr. Russell goes on to assert that there would be "no logical, philosophical or legally rational basis for prohibiting people who want multiple wives, multiple husbands, or any combination thereof from marrying."
Nonsense! This is an obfuscation designed to help you take your eye off the ball. The law as passed has nothing to do with any of the traditional impediments such as bigamy and incest. Hundreds, indeed, thousands of people worked very hard to get the current law passed.
Logically, philosophically and legally, you need a large constituency of people to change or pass a law. Russell creates a straw man or straw menage. There is no constituency for multiple, underage or incestuous marriage.
Russell then goes on to define who can get married. But he distorts the list to serve his own purpose. He adds to the traditional impediments of bigamy, incest and majority, a fourth: You "must marry someone of the opposite sex."
In the Old South it was: You must marry someone of the same race. But we changed that tradition by changing the laws. Did that benefit society? Yes. Did it make some folks angry? Yes! But society was evolving.
Russell then asserts – with no citation, so it is impossible to check his facts – that "Social science shows conclusively that children do best when raised by their married biological mother and father."
I challenge that statement. Is it fact or opinion? What was the methodology? Who funded the study? (The scientific standard when using data to support an argument is to cite the source so the reader can examine the science underlying the data.)
What an insult to anyone raised by a granny, an aunt or uncle or an adoptive parent and to all the good men and women – gay and straight – who have successfully and lovingly raised children not biologically their own!
Finally – in a kind of reverse logic – Russell asserts that: "In states where same-sex marriage is legal, we are already seeing the threat it poses to religious liberties and personal right of conscience."
It is more the case that religious license seeks to suppress civil liberties and individual conscience.
That is why our Founding Fathers in their wisdom and experience – having seen the bloody religious wars of Europe – put into our Constitution a separation clause and a free-exercise clause, in order to achieve the delicate balance between freedom of religion and freedom from religion.
It is a balance that the same-sex marriage law brilliantly achieves and why it was passed into law by both houses of our Legislature with bipartisan support and signed by our governor to begin with.
My final claim in support of the law is the 14th Amendment. It is a matter of due process and equality before the law.
Mr. Russell says marriage is a substantial and profound tradition. I say you cannot bar a substantial and profound minority from it. Unless, of course, you'd like to bring back separate (but equal) drinking fountains, classrooms and seats on the bus.
© 2009 Portland Press Herald