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Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Maine

2012-DEC: SSM arrives in Maine.
Reactions to SSM.
2013-DEC: Looking back a year later.

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In this section, "SSM" refers to "same-sex marriage, and
"LGBT" refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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2012-DEC-29: Marriage equality arrives in Maine (Cont'd):

David Farmer, spokesperson for EqualityMaine said:

"It could be that for the vast majority of people, the first practical time they can get a license will on (Monday) December 31. But we anticipate that some of the [city or town halls in the] bigger municipalities will in fact open; we don't have confirmation of that yet." 1

Michael Brennan, mayor of Portland ME said he will look into the possibility of opening Portland's City Hall on that Saturday, possibly at 12:01 a.m., for the city's -- and possibly the state's -- first same-sex marriage ceremony in many years. On NOV-03, he said:

"We just found out about this today, and we'll look into all the details and make a determination from there. We can't say for sure we'll be open on Dec. 29 or rule that out as a possibility." 2

Kim McLaughlin, the president of the Maine Town & City Clerk's Association, said that there is no waiting period in Maine, so marriages could take place immediately after the license is issued. 3

Thus, the first same-sex marriage may take place very early on Saturday morning, DEC-29. Other weddings will probably be solemnized late that day or on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. There appear to be strong financial incentives to marry before the end of 2012 rather than at the start of the 2013.

Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine has been a main opponent of SSM. He said that her group is:

"... dealing with notaries and clerks and religious organizations. ... The other issue we're dealing with is religious institutions that rent their properties out for weddings."

There are undoubtedly some notaries and clerks who would like to use their individual religious freedom to denigrate and discriminate against same-sex engaged couples by refusing to sell them a marriage license. However, they have sworn an oath of office to apply all of the laws of the state impartially. This may place them in a conflict.

There are many churches that frequently rent their halls for weddings and wedding receptions and who would also like to use their religious freedom to deny access to same-sex couples. The law does contain wording that does not require:

"any church, religious denomination or other religious institution to host any marriage in violation of" its religious beliefs. ... The refusal to perform or host a marriage ... cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or liability."

However this refers only to individual congregations and their clergy. The law does not include a clause giving such privileges to faith groups concerning rental of their halls, or wedding photographers, wedding cake bakers, wedding dress retailers, etc. They may still be subject to human rights laws, as discussed below.

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Reactions by the public to marriage equality:

Some readers of the article published by the Portland Press Herald 2 posted some lively comments:

  • Amy R Brown, a legal secretary/receptionist at Sebben & Sebben, who apparently is or has access to a notary public wrote: "... my calendar is open for anyone seeking to get married in this state! :-)"

  • Erin Nadeau wrote "And I'm available to photograph!"

  • John Dennett wrote: "I'm a Minister with the ULC, Live in Wells, Work in Portland, and will be happy to do weddings of any combination, Drop me a note on Facebook.

"ULC" appears to be the Universal Life Church.

  • Kim Wallace wrote: "I am a notary and I would consider it an incredible honor to officiate at any wedding! I am currently available on the 29th if anyone needs an officiant :)"

  • Gordie Raynes wrote about a very unlikely scenario: "There I STILL time to OVERTURN this travesty as is is immoral & WRONG."

  • To which:
    • Pastor Michael Stoliker responded: "god [sic] made ADAM AND EVE. NOT ADAM AND STEVE."

Webmaster's note: Genesis does state that God made Adam and then made Eve from Adam's rib. It was their descendents who made Adam, Jr. and Steve. If God made Adam And Steve as the first and only two humans that he created, the human race would never have developed into over 7 billion individuals by today.

    • William Stuart wrote: "Ok. . . give that a shot while the SCOTUS deliberates."

    • Tedlick Badkey wrote: "Go for it sweetie... it'll be fun to watch."

  • Michael Ritter wrote:

    "Morrill said she hasn't heard from a lot of people asking when same-sex couples could come in to get married. Seeing as only 0.5% of the 2% of the homosexual population even gets married when same sex marriage is legalized I hardly expect too many people to make the big rush to get married.... ' I'm hoping we'll be bombarded,' Morrill said. Don't hold your breath. This has been a big ruse. It's not really about marriage or much more than.5% would get married when allowed. It's about destroying traditional marriage and destroying the traditional family unit. Here is a more comprehensive [sic] view of what's going on in America, eye opening video: vimeo.com.

Webmaster's note: I think what Michael Ritter is saying is that only 2% of the adult population is gay or lesbian, and that only 0.5% of them will get married. I suspect that these figures are way off:

  • The common wisdom among human sexuality researchers is that 10% of adults are sexually attracted to persons of the same gender. Of these about half are gay or lesbian and half are bisexual. Thus they conclude that about 5% of the adult population is gay -- not 2% as Ritter seems to believe.

  • California has a population of about 38 million of which perhaps 27 million are of marriageable age. Accepting that 5% of the latter are gay or lesbian, then this amounts to 1.35 millions in the state.

  • Between 2008-MAY when the courts authorized SSM in California and 2008-MAY, when Proposition 8 cancelled access to marriage, some 36,000 same-sex couples were married. Essentially all were both gay men or lesbians. They represent about 2.7% of the gay and lesbian population. Ritter's 0.5% appears to be too low by a factor of more than 5. If Prop. 8 had failed, MANY more than 36,000 gay and lesbian couples would have married by now.

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2013-DEC: Looking back one year later:

Steven Bridges and Michael Snell were the first same-sex couple to be married in Maine for many years. They solemnized their marriage shortly after midnight on 2012-DEC-29 at Portland's city hall. Bridges said:

"We thought it was truly going to be a low-key night with Michael's daughters It didn't turn out that way."

" ... With so many other states passing same-sex marriage laws, it's going to be normal. That's what we always wanted. We didn't want a gay wedding. We just wanted a wedding.""

Snell said:

"We weren't looking anything special. We were just looking for the same thing that was afforded to everyone else through marriage."

But, being the first same-sex couple in the state to marry in many hears, their marriage wasn't as quiet as they expected. They were surrounded by several dozen newspaper reporters and photographers. They subsequently received letters of congratulations from total strangers living in countries around the world.

Following their marriage, 1,529 additional same-sex marriages were solemnized in the state during 2013. They totaled 16% of all marriages that year.

The Christian Civic League of Maine has two main concerns about same-sex marriages: 4

  • Children might be taught in schools that same-sex couples can marry in the state.

  • They are concerned about retail businesses, most of which are "public accommodations. That is, they are in business to supply goods or services to the general public. Many states, including Maine, have human rights legislation that require such "public accommodations" to not discriminate against customers on the basis of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other grounds. Such discrimination is viewed as being very disruptive to society.

    However, there have been about a dozen cases across the U.S. in recent years where companies in the wedding industry -- such as wedding photographers, wedding cake bakers, companies that rent halls for weddings and receptions, etc. -- have run afoul of their state's human rights legislation. All of the companies are believed to have conservative Christian owners who feel that their religion calls upon them to reject same-sex engaged couples as customers. They believe that the religious freedom and liberty guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution grants them exemption from human rights legislation and gives them the right to discriminate against same-sex couples who wish to marry.

    In the past, the terms "religious freedom" and "religious liberty" have generally referred to freedom of religious beliefs, freedom of religious assembly, freedom of religious recruitment and proselyzing, etc. But in recent years, the definition has been changing. It mow seems to mostly refer to the freedom to discriminate against, oppress, and denigrate women and minorities -- particularly sexual minorities like the LGBT community.

    To further complicate the situation, every major religion in the world contains an ethic of reciprocity. In Christianity the "ethic" is called the "Golden Rule." One of the verses in the Bible that defines the "Golden Rule" is Luke 6:31 where Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) is quoted as saying:

    "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."

    Many owners of companies that are public accommodations are thus pulled in two different directions by three factors:

    • They interpret the six or so "clobber passages" in the Bible as being anti-gay. They feel that these passages requires them to discriminate against engaged same-sex couples.

    • The Golden Rule calls on them to treat people as they themselves would wish to be treated. That calls on them to not discriminate.

    • The state's human rights legislation also calls on them directly to not discriminate, and can generate significant fines if they choose to discriminate.

Fortunately, there have only been about a dozen cases across the U.S. where the owners have decided to discriminate against a potential customer, and the latter lodged a complaint with the state's human rights tribunal. Still, it is a matter of deep concern to many conservative Christians who look upon human rights legislation as limiting their religious liberty to discriminate.

Carroll Conley, the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine said:

"When we look across the country, this is definitely not a live-and-let-live proposition. The whole argument was about equality and we said during our campaign that we thought there would be people who'd find themselves in the crosshairs of the redefinition of marriage."

The "crosshairs" of course are created by the state's human rights legislation. The only way of avoiding this problem is to modify the human rights legislation so that they would allow public accommodations to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, by owners of public accommodations who want to discriminate because of their religious beliefs. That might well be an difficult change to implement. Alternately, religious conservatives can simply decide to follow the existing human rights legislation.

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Site navigation:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Zach Howard, "Save the date: Gay marriages in Maine to start December 29," Reuters, 2012-DEC-03, at: http://www.reuters.com/
  2. Scot Dolan, "Maine gay-marriage law effective Dec. 29," Portland Press Herald, 2012-DEC-04, at: http://www.pressherald.com/
  3. "Maine gay marriage law effective Dec. 29." Associated Press, 2012-DEC-03, at: http://seattletimes.com/
  4. David Sharp, "1,530 same-sex marriages recorded in Maine," SF Gate, 2014-DEC-28, at: http://www.sfgate.com/

Copyright © 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2012-DEC-05
Latest update: 2014-JAN-08
Author: B.A. Robinson

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