Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Choosing equality for Maine and its marriages - Bangor Daily News

Excellent commentary

Choosing equality for Maine and its marriages - Bangor Daily News

By Emily Cain

There is only one conclusion in Rev. Bob Emrich’s Sept. 2 column, “Same-sex marriage would be harmful to society,” that I totally agree with: The vote on Question 1 on Nov. 3 will be one of the most important Mainers ever cast.

On Nov. 3 we will decide whether we maintain the Maine tradition of neighbors who live and let live, or if we will adopt the position of Rev. Emrich and his supporters that if you disagree with how your neighbors are living their lives, you have a right, even an obligation, to interfere with their personal decisions.

We will decide whether we will embrace Rev. Emrich’s vision of a Maine where there is one set of rules for him and his supporters and another for Mainers with whom he disagrees. Or will we maintain the Maine tradition my neighbors and I support, that everyone should be treated equally under the law.

This referendum is about children and families, but I disagree with Rev. Emrich's assessment of what is at stake. For Emrich, gender and sexual orientation determine who will be a good parent. In fact, every reputable children’s advocacy organization agrees that love and support are what children need most. As Dr. Daniel Summers of the American Academy of Pediatrics testified at the April hearing in Augusta: “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.”

All Maine people love their children. But in his crusade to deny marriage equality to thousands of Mainers, Rev. Emrich completely ignores the rights, responsibilities and protections that marriage automatically bestows on couples and on their children. Do we really want to deny these benefits to any Maine child because his or her parents are a same-sex couple?

In his determination to impose his views on everyone else, Rev. Emrich simply disregards the severe hardship and injustice that a repeal of Maine’s marriage equality law would impose on our neighbors, co-workers and family members denied the right to marry.

There are thousands of loving same-sex couples in Maine who have made commitments to one another, many for decades. Marriage equality honors these commitments and acknowledges them under the law. Without marriage equality, Maine law does not recognize these couples as a legal pair. They cannot file taxes jointly, access health insurance as a family or inherit property when one partner dies without the hardship of crushing taxes.

Contrary to Rev. Emrich’s apocalyptic view, marriage equality will make Maine families stronger, extend vital rights and protections to the children of the couples who marry and uphold core Maine values of fairness, equality and personal freedom. Let's not forget Massachusetts. New government statistics show Massachusetts with the lowest divorce rate in the country, down to 2 divorces per 1,000 residents, a drop from 2.2 before 2004 when same-sex couples began marrying. This is down to pre-World War II levels. Obviously, the dire predictions about the downfall of society have not come to pass and thousands of families there are stronger as a result.

In the Maine where my neighbors and I live and work, we look out for one another. We don’t judge one another's personal decisions and we don’t insist on imposing our views on everyone else. Above all, in our Maine, we treat everybody the same, especially when it comes to the law.

On Nov. 3, I have faith that fair-minded Mainers will choose to uphold our long-standing traditions of live and let live, of fairness for all and of the right of every Mainer to marry the person they love. I am confident that they will vote No on 1 to protect Maine equality.

Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, is House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

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