Last fall, a slim majority of Mainers decided to deny their law-abiding fellow citizens and neighbors and relatives the same rights they themselves enjoy as a matter of course. No, they said, you same-sex couples may not get married.
One wonders what was going through their minds.
Did some actually vote against their own conscience, fearful to be out of step with the apparent feelings of their family or friends or co-workers? Did they mistakenly imagine that our job as citizens is just to follow along with majority opinion and not lead it? Probably. The herd instinct is strong.
Were some following the dictates and teachings of their religious denominations? The oft-touted notion that homosexuality is decried by God as an “abomination” is routinely misunderstood and widely misused. Such ancient biblical texts actually describe what traditions were acceptable in the writers’ own particular tribes, and not what God presumably thinks. So that’s not even biblically correct as a prohibition.
But more to the point, we’re supposed to be well past the bad old days when either voters or civil legislatures made laws that imposed certain individuals’ religious traditions on everyone. It wasn’t all that long ago that so-called “Blue Laws” forbade commercial establishments from being open on “the Sabbath”. (Never mind that different religions have different ideas about which day of the week is the Sabbath!) Nobody wants a return to, or any perpetuation of, law-making based on somebody else’s subjective interpretation of their particular Scriptures.
And let’s remember that it is the sanction of the state, not the church, that makes any marriage legal. When clergy choose to be involved, they are acting as agents of the state, irrespective of any religious trappings and traditions they might evoke as accoutrements. The license they sign is issued by the state, not the church. If they don’t want to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples, they don’t have to. But they have no voice whatsoever in whether or not other clergy or civil officers perform them. The term “marriage” is owned by all the people, not by churches, synagogues, or mosques.
Let’s see. What else. Perhaps those who voted to deny marriage to others convinced themselves that same-sex marriage would somehow destroy the institution of marriage (currently failing at a 50% rate all on its own). If so, perhaps they could explain exactly how that destruction would take place and what consequences it would have. Please spell it out. As in: A would lead to B which would lead to C which would be a disaster. The truth is that probably not one of the those voting to preserve marriage for heterosexual couples alone knows whether any of the same-sex couples now living in Maine are actually legally married, having wed in some other state before moving here. Guess what. Surely some are. In fact, I know for certain some are. I could introduce you to them. Are they ruining marriage?
Okay, there must be something else that might have prompted a vote to deny them the right to marry. Concern for children raised by gay parents? No, that couldn’t be the reason, since all the research shows that’s simply not a problem. Hey, we’re running out of possibilities here.
I suppose some voters might claim that they were just “sticking to their principles”, whatever that all-purpose cop-out might mean. The world is full of people marching proudly through life under the banner “Saepe in errore, sed numquam in dubio” (“Often wrong, but never in doubt”).
If there is someone who has a motive for voting against same-sex marriage that I’ve missed, other than flat-out prejudice, I hope they’ll let me know. My e-mail address is listed below. And if it turns out to be nothing but flat-out prejudice, I hope they’ll decide to outgrow it.
Majority blocks of voters have often shown themselves to be perfectly content to inflict cruelty on others, long denying personhood to blacks, forbidding the vote to women, offering unequal pay to women performing the same work as men. But as a nation, we’ve been actively renouncing these unworthy practices of late. Depriving our neighbors of marriage equality is just about the last item remaining unredeemed on this dismal list of injustices, and it’s high time that Maine shows the country how to strike that one off the list, too.