Category Archives: marriage equality

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.

Happy Five Years of Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

The sky has not fallen. Heather still has her two mommies. The religious right is still predicting dire consequences. Thus far their crystal ball has been very murky at best to downright wrong at worst.

As of September 2008, 12, 350 same-sex couples have married in Massachusetts. The latest reports by UCLA’s Williams Institute indicate that “after five years of extending marriage to gay couples, new studies show Massachusetts has attracted highly-skilled workers and experienced an economic boost of over $100 million.”

The Williams Institute continues to do important research indicating the economic impact of marriage equality on states like Iowa, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. Now they have five years of data about Massachusetts and the results are convincing about the wedding industry windfall.  But even more exciting is the data they present from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey that shows the enhanced attractiveness of our state to the “creative class.”

According to the census survey, same-sex couples in the creative class are 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts since marriage equality became legal in 2004. So, we have Cape Cod, the beautiful Berkshires, world class universities and research institutes, historic cities galore, museums for everything, sports teams without parallel, and marriage equality.

Who wouldn’t want to move here? Maybe the religious right who think the sky will fall any day now? But folks who are interested in contributing to an even greater Commonwealth and living where they are part of the “we” in “we the people” are coming. That’s more good news on this Fifth Anniversary.

Marriage Equality for Five Years

Pat Gozemba

It seems hard to believe that as of May 17, 2009, we’ve had marriage equality in Massachusetts for five years. Part of the reason for disbelief is that we had to fight off constitutional amendment efforts until June 14, 2007. And then we had to fight off, until July 2008, a racist 1913 law that kept same-sex couples from out of state from coming to Massachusetts to marry. Our legislators and our governor, Deval Patrick, deserve huge praise for protecting and expanding marriage equality.

So we have almost had a year of marriage equality that brings all of the rights of Massachusetts marriage law to all married Massachusetts residents.  But we need to keep remembering that the 1,138 federal rights that accrue to married couples are still not ours. The work of securing equality for all is not done.

But yesterday was a day to feel grateful.  MassEquality kicked off the celebrations heading up to May 17th with a press conference at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston.

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Peter Hams, Susan Shepherd, and Marcia Hams cut the 5th Anniversary cake as Attorney General Martha Coakley and Lt. Governor Tim Murray and others looked on. Photo: Marilyn Humphries.

Shepherd and Hams applied for the first legal same-sex marriage license just after midnight on May 17, 2004 inCambridge City Hall. We tell their thrilling story in Courting Equality.

NECN Cable News captured much of the excitement of yesterday and the past five years. Check it out

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The Gathering Norm: Marriage Equality

Pat Gozemba

Book Cover for Courting Equality links to Beacon Press page for book The marriage equality victory in Iowa was greeted with heartfelt cheers on our side and an attempt to rain on our parade with a 60 second homophobic commercial, “The Gathering Storm,” from a Mormon front group, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). They want all Americans to be afraid—like them. NOM claims to have spent $1.5 million to produce and air what looks like a bad high school production. I’m afraid they got taken.  Read and see more.

Marriage Equality: Facts v Lies

Pat GozembaIf you spend time reading religious objections to marriage equality, watching ads like the National Organization for Marriage blockbuster “The Gathering Storm,” or tuning in to Brian Camenker’s MassResistance blather, then you might enjoy a straightforward rebuttal to the anti-equality messaging.

 

The same old objections to marriage equality are recycled through all the media and the more often we can correct the lies, the better it will be for civil discourse to begin. 

Check out the “facts” from WakingUpNow.com. No laughs. Just facts.

 

 


Married in Massachusetts… Not in Hawaii …

Kath Sands and Linda Krieger

Kath Sands, former professor of religion at UMass-Boston, and her partner Linda Krieger, an attorney, have a marriage license in Massachusetts. But last year, they moved to Honolulu, where they both teach at the university–Kath in American Studies, and Linda at the Richardson School of Law. Linda grew up in Hawaii, and so it was a homecoming of sorts. But here in Hawaii, their marriage isn’t recognized. Like us, they have joined the struggle to pass a civil unions bill this legislative session.

This week’s Honolulu Weekly, features Kath and Linda in an extraodinarily moving story by the paper’s editor Ragnar Carlson. There haven’t been many stories that cover the challenges for married Massachusetts couples who leave our state–and with few exceptions–have to leave the legal recognition of their relationships behind as well. As Carlson says, “For Kreiger and Sands, who had preiously enjoyed equal status under the law, the transition was rough.” Read the full story.