MARRIAGE AFFORDS unparalleled rights and benefits to people who commit to long-term relationships. All people, regardless of sexual orientation, should have an equal right to marry under the law. On Election Day, Maine voters should vote “no’’ on ballot Question 1 and respect the rights of their neighbors and fellow citizens to live how they choose.
Supporters of the ballot initiative argue that same-sex marriage erodes heterosexual marriage, but experience has proven them wrong: Since Massachusetts legalized gay marriage five years ago, the state has seen its divorce rate, already the lowest in the nation, decline further. But that hasn’t stopped supporters of the initiative from making other wild claims. No, gay marriage is not being taught, alongside spelling and long division, as part of the public-school curriculum in Massachusetts. No, an equal right to civil marriage has not rendered Massachusetts genderless.
Religions differ in their beliefs, customs, and ceremonies about marriage - none of which will be affected by a new Maine law that deals only with civil marriages. If Question 1 fails, churches and other religious groups could still refuse to perform same-sex marriages. But the law would ensure that courts will continue to marry gay and lesbian couples.
The law signed by Governor John E. Baldacci in May recognizes that legalizing gay marriage is a matter of fairness. A civil union, the governor said, is not equal to a marriage. Just as the state of Maine would not deny the equal rights and protections of the law to its other citizens, it should not deny them to gay people who wish to build stable families. A vote of “no’’ on Question 1 is a vote for equal protection of the laws, a guarantee in Maine’s constitution and in the country’s that all citizens should defend and embrace.