A year ago, it was Prop 8 that sullied my joy at the official end of the Bush era. One year later, this once proud son of the State of Maine is appalled. 52.7% of the voting electorate there voted yes to the question, “Do you want to reject the new law that lets same-sex couples marry and allows individuals and religious groups to refuse to perform these marriages?” In this denial of rights, some will see a brave defense of traditional values. I see the hideous specter of legally sanctioned discrimination.
Being gay is like being black, white or Latino. It’s genetic, not a matter of choice; and it’s recurrent in the population — generation after generation, throughout human history. (If you don’t believe me, read the Iliad.) There’s also pretty good scientific evidence — empirical, not moral — to prove that being gay is one of the normal expressions of human sexuality, along with heterosexuality. The latter is more prevalent, but both are normal. To deny normal, law-abiding people their civil rights is no better than racism. It’s that simple.
Gay marriage, therefore, is a straight-up civil rights issue; ultimately, it will take a Supreme Court decision or an amendment to the US Constitution to make this right. That’s almost inconceivably hard work, but ending slavery — an institution preserved by our ‘founding fathers’ in our most treasured document — was no picnic either.
Apparently, it’s also time to disentangle the issue of church and state with respect to this issue. That would mean that only the government would have the exclusive right to marry a couple legally. Let’s take all churches, synagogues, mosques, shrines, etc. out of the mix altogether. This won’t put the clergy out of work; they can still perform their symbolic ceremonies after the real wedding, marriage itself should be a purely civil affair.
Finally, and on a personal note, I feel real personal sadness here. I have live most of my life out of state, but I have always been proud of Maine’s libertarian tradition, which was based less on personal likes and dislikes and more on keeping the government out of the private sphere. Sadly, a majority of Maine voters seem to think that government should have the right to tell people how to live their personal lives. So much for innocence!
By Michael B. Laskoff