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PPH Op-Ed: Marriage Equality Debate Reflects Two Views of Maine

September 8, 2009

Larry Bliss, the State Senator from South Portland who chairs the Judiciary Committee and led the hearing on LD 1020, has an op-ed in today’s Portland Press Herald.  Bliss draws the distinction between the way he views Maine and the way that Rev. Emrich views Maine.  Bliss does a nice job reminding us that this isn’t just an issue for a subset of Mainers, but it’s about much bigger principles. (h/t Debbie)

After reading Rev. Bob Emrich’s Aug. 26 Maine Voices column (“Legislature, governor chopped down Maine’s traditional marriage law”), I question whether he and I live in the same state.Rev. Emrich looks at marriage equality in Maine and sees “acres of clear-cut land.” I look at marriage equality, and I see thousands of Maine couples whose lives are more secure, whose children have more protections under the law and whose rights are assured to love each other and to have the law acknowledge and honor their partnerships.

In Rev. Emrich’s Maine, if you disagree with how your neighbors are living their lives, you have a right – even an obligation – to interfere with the decisions they make in their personal lives. In the Maine where my neighbors and I live, we believe that everyone should be able to live their lives the way they want to live them.

ALL MAINERS DESERVE JUSTICE

In Rev. Emrich’s Maine, there is one set of rules for him and his supporters and another for those Mainers he disagrees with. In the Maine where my neighbors and I live, we believe that everyone should be treated fairly under the law.

For Rev. Emrich, marriage is a restrictive club guided by the rules he and his supporters make. Rev. Emrich totally ignores the most important facts about marriage and the rights, responsibilities and protections it confers on the two people who marry and on their children.

In his zeal to close the door to marriage for thousands of our neighbors, co-workers and family members, Rev. Emrich fails to address the injustice behind repealing Maine’s marriage equality law in November.

Marriage equality strengthens Maine families, protects Maine children and reflects core Maine values of fairness and individual liberty.

Marriage equality honors the commitment that thousands of loving same-sex couples in Maine have made to each other, often for decades.

These loving couples are not recognized as a legal pair and, therefore, cannot file taxes jointly; do not have access to health insurance as a family, and are not allowed to inherit property at the time of death without the hardship of crushing taxes.

In addition, their children are not entitled to all of the rights and protections marriage confers on a family headed by a married couple.

Despite Rev. Emrich’s assertions, the truth is that every reputable organization dedicated to children’s well-being has found that what children need most is love and support.

KIDS OF SAME-SEX PARENTS THRIVE

At the April 22 legislative hearing in Augusta on the marriage equality legislation, Dr. Daniel Summers of the American Academy of Pediatrics testified, “It is the quality of parenting that predicts children’s psychological and social adjustment, not the parents’ sexual orientation or gender.”

He added that children raised by same-sex couples “do not differ in any important respect from those raised by heterosexual parents.”

Parents, after all, are parents. And every parent wants their children to thrive, to succeed and be valued in society. Isn’t that what we all want for Maine children?

Rev. Emrich’s Maine is a cold, bleak and unwelcoming place; not “the way life should be.”

Do we want to live in the Rev. Emrich’s Maine, where one neighbor insists on telling another neighbor how to live?

Do we want to raise our families in Rev. Emrich’s Maine, where one set of laws applies to some people and a separate but not equal set of laws applies to everyone else?

Do we want a Maine where Rev. Emrich and his supporters tell the rest of us who can be a family and who can love whom?

Marriage equality upholds traditional Maine values of personal freedom and equality by respecting the right of every Mainer to marry the person he or she loves.

That’s the Maine I live in. Those are the values I hold dear.

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