Category Archives: Maine

Fought in Maine but Married in Mass.

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tambry Young and Suzanne King wed in Salem, MA on 11.7.09

Tribute

by Pat Gozemba

Tambry Young and Suzanne King, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people of Massachusetts, represented by those of us gathered here today on November 7, 2009 in Salem, recognize and celebrate your relationship of 28 years.  We honor the extraordinary efforts that you have taken to protect your relationship and your 9-year-old daughter Shylar.

You have travelled thousands of miles from your native land, from the state of Hawai’i, to Massachusetts a state where your love is honored, your family is acknowledged, and your civil right to marry is guaranteed. May that civil right be granted one day to all of the people in Hawai’i.

Karen and I met you when we joined the Hawai’i Family Equality Coalition struggle for civil unions. We had the privilege of seeing you emerge as leaders of the movement with Tambry becoming co-chair of the coalition.  As a Native Hawaiian family you speak out publicly for the rights of all lesbians and gays living in Hawai’i to have the option to marry.  You are profiles in courage for those who live in fear.

The joy and commitment of your lives inspires others, especially young people, straight and LGBT, to join the struggle for civil rights for all.

I wasn’t surprised at all when Tambry decided to come to Maine to join the fight to protect marriage equality in the “No on 1” campaign. What does surprise me, a bit , is that 15 days after she landed in Boston and we traveled to Maine and did endless hours of phone-banking and data tallying we are at this moment today—her  marriage to Suzanne.

The struggle for equality in Maine led to this celebration of equality today in Massachusetts. On October 24th the day Tambry landed in Boston, Karen took her on a little walking tour of our Salem Willows neighborhood and introduced her to some of the many LGBT families in our little community. Over cocktails later, Tambry mused “what’s up” all these out gay people and their kids?  Everybody is so open. She had met Olga and Julie and their daughters Mattea and Marina and that was just the beginning.

Two days later on Monday Karen mused, “You know Tambry you could get married in Massachusetts.” In a rare a-historical moment, I the lesbian historian said, “Yeah, you could use our address.” Karen looked at me and said, “Honey, anyone can come to Massachusetts and get married.”  Oh, yeah, we fought for that right too and we’re so glad we did.

A day later, Tambry and I went to Boston’s Top of the Hub, where Marilyn took Karen and me for our wedding luncheon in 2005.  Great spot.  Marvelous view of the city. Weddings were on our minds. Tambry wondered if she could get Suzanne and Shylar to Massachusetts. Next thing we knew, Suzanne was on the phone and a proposal was in the works.

An elaborate proposal ritual followed in which Tambry topped every gesture of courtly love that I had ever imagined. On Friday, October 30th in the lobby of the Coldwell Banker office in Honolulu, Tambry’s friend Amy delivered to Suzanne flowers and a box of chocolates with a card inside showing Tambry on bended knee outside the “No on 1” campaign office in Portland, Maine asking Suzanne to be her wife.  I encourage all of you to check out the card in the slide show. It’s a winner.

Well, Suzanne accepted the proposal and here we are today at this exciting moment of equality. I wish that every person in Maine who voted against marriage equality could look in their hearts and reconsider what kind of a victory it is to deny beautiful families like that of Suzanne, Tambry, and Shylar the security , commitment, and love of marriage.

We are blessed to be in Massachusetts where our constitution recognizes that Tambry and Suzanne are part of the “’we’ in we the people.” May equality take on a new life all over this country from Maine to Hawai’i. Our resolve and more importantly our love will win the day.

Tambry, Suzanne, and Shylar you are leading the way. May your lives be blessed.

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Marriage Proposal

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry makes a long-distance proposal to Suzanne

Tambry arrived in Massachusetts from Honolulu, HI, a week ago to help out with Maine’s “No on 1” campaign. Then she realized, she could do more than fight for the right to marriage—she could marry her partner of 28 years here in Massachusetts. So an elaborate proposal was put together long-distance, that included the above photograph. Suzanne said “yes”—and on Saturday, November 7, Suzane and Tambry will marry in Salem, MA, with many of our Courting Equality friends there as witnesses. Suzanne and daughter, Shylar, fly in on November 4 to begin the festivities! Everybody wish them well!

Maine: Will Voters Protect All families?

Pat Gozemba

The “No on 1: Protect Marriage Equality” effort is a civil rights movement to support and protect all Maine families. In contrast, the conservative religious fundamentalist, “Yes on 1: Stand for Marriage Maine,” movement is an effort to limit the rights of families to the heterosexual one man one woman variety. Despite high divorce rates in heterosexual families, fundamentalists opposed to marriage equality insist that the heterosexual dyad is where it is at for raising children. They ignore the reality of successful parenting among single parents and same-sex couples—who are increasingly approaching over half of the families raising children in this country. Preserving heterosexual superiority is the agenda of the Catholic Church, Protestant fundamentalists, and especially Mormons. Not surprisingly these groups are the largest contributors to the Yes on 1 campaign in Maine.

In asserting heterosexual superiority, fundamentalists insist that granting the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples will be giving them special rights, privileges, and benefits. Unspoken is the conservative commitment to reinstating patriarchy. Their movement is bigger than an assault on LGBT civil rights. It is an assault on feminism and a longing for “the way things used to be” before women raised their voices for equality and gays and lesbians busted down closet doors. Most of all it is a cruel denial of reality.

According to the 2000 Census, self-identified LGBT families are in 99% of all US counties and in 96% of those counties these families are raising children. Maine is probably no different. Children in LGBT families are usually not LGBT. They are heterosexual kids who are in our schools and have to listen to ads on TV and radio that denigrate their LGBT parents.

Families are supposed to be our safe havens. Indeed they serve that purpose for other minorities. But LGBT kids are not likely to have LGBT parents and they often have no one at home who understands them. Perhaps they are in a heterosexual family that supports denying any rights, especially marriage to LGBT people. What message are these heterosexual parents giving to their LGBT kid? You’re not worthy of rights, especially the right to marry.

Maine voters have an opportunity to affirm all of Maine’s families at the polls on November 3rd. Voters have an opportunity to protect all of Maine’s children making sure that the families that they live in are protected by all the rights, privileges, and benefits that is the birthright of all Americans. Marriage is the gold-standard for family protection in this country and that is why LGBT people are seeking it.

Morality, Maine, and Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

November 3rd in Maine is nearly upon us. As we close in on yet another election that will determine if LGBT people are really deserving of the rights of all other citizens, I turned once again to literature for insight and solace.

Sarah Orne Jewett’s American classic The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) and Elizabeth Strout’s  Pulitzer prize winner Olive Kittredge (2008)—both novels set in Maine—capture what I have come to think of as the quintessential characteristics of the state’s people: decency and a regard for the well-being of one’s neighbors.

In both of these novels there are characters who are “different” but the guiding ethos of the communities that Jewett and Strout write about is a compassionate caring and a determination to live and let live. No orthodoxy makes the beliefs of any of their characters more compelling than those of others.  Spirituality, not religion, is the moral force.

Folks in Maine are generally thoughtful and forthright and that’s why when I read today’s editorial in the Biddeford Journal Tribune, “Question 1 denies Maine’s same-sex couples equal rights,” I wasn’t surprised. Biddeford is a small old mill town of just over twenty thousand people, 97% of whom are white. It’s not San Francisco or Los Angeles. It’s not edgy or hip. It’s classic Maine and its newspaper offers a view that I wish could have resonated in California last November:

“The arguments against same-sex marriage seem hollow and some of them reminiscent of the arguments of old, against interracial marriage: It’s not natural, it’s immoral, it’s bad for the children.

It might not be something we’re used to – just as people once were not used to seeing a white hand and a black hand clasped firmly together – but that doesn’t make it wrong. Some people may still be uncomfortable with those of another race, culture or lifestyle, but it has largely been agreed that the predominant race or culture’s “comfort zone” should not dictate everyone else’s rights.

We agree with Marvin Ellison, the Presbyterian minister who is active in the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, who said that the ultimate human right is the right to choose whom you marry.”

The dignity and civil rights of LGBT people and indeed all people are safe in the hands of thoughtful editorial boards such as the one at the Biddeford Journal Tribune. The simple and powerful arguments that they offer for full equality, full personhood would have meaning in the spiritual worlds of the characters in Jewett and Strout.

The introspection of the people of Maine and their sense of decency give me hope that the dashing of the LGBT community’s hope for equality under the law in California will not be repeated in Maine.

Maine: Gay Marriage and the Church

Pat Gozemba

September 9, 2009

On April 22, 2009, I watched with awe as pro-marriage equality forces gathered to testify before a legislative committee in Maine. The breadth and depth of the testimony, coming as it did in the 3 minute segments allotted to each speaker, ably represented the wide diversity of voices in Maine and this country supporting marriage equality.

The legislature later deliberated and voted to support marriage equality and the governor signed the bill. But it wasn’t long before the forces opposed to marriage equality gathered enough signatures to put the issue of equality for a minority, in this case LGBT people, on the ballot in November 2009.

Labor Day has passed and Maine, the Vacationland state, is now entering into a period of fierce struggle around marriage equality. The same hardball players who wrested marriage equality from the people of California are in Maine and spinning their old tales. Schubert  Flint Public Affairs, the major architects of the inequality campaign in California, are running the show in Maine. Major funds have come in from the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the family, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Maine.

Maine is 29% Catholic (higher than the nation at 24%) and the Catholics are organized. They are the largest religious group in the state, probably in part because of the high concentration of French-Canadians.  Mormons make up 1% of the population but they are from a religious tradition that draws heavily on Mormon resources in other parts of the country. So, factoring in the Catholic/Mormon nexus with the media and campaign savvy of Schubert Flint, Maine is bracing for what we call in New England a fierce Nor’easter. Sebastian Junger wrote about The Perfect Storm. I see another one brewing.

A small paragraph in the Boston Globe on September 7th noted:

“The Catholic Church in Maine is stepping up its effort to defeat a gay marriage law in November. The WBLZ News Center reported that the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland is asking its parishes to take a special second collection next weekend to help pay for a campaign on a referendum that could reverse the same-sex marriage law passed by the state Legislature. Money raised in the effort will go to Stand for marriage Maine, which is leading the effort to repeal the law.”

The separation of church and state has little meaning in marriage equality battles across the country.  Catholics like to call their church, The Church. Soon they may have all of us doing it. We need to stave off foes of inequality and foes of the separation of church and state. They are one and the same in Maine.