In several days, the people of Maine will vote to support or effectively condemn gay marriage. I am fully in support, which is why I am voting NO on Question 1.
I will be so proud of Mainers if Question 1 fails. We will be the first state where the people stood up for equality, and cast off the thuggish weight of parochial intolerance. This kind of vote has apparently come before various localities on over thirty occasions (New York Times), and never has the right outcome been reached.
This is Maine’s chance to lead the nation into a fair and ethical future, where even California failed (the recent debacle of Prop. 8).
Below is the op-ed I wrote on this topic, published in the Bangor Daily News on May 15. You can also access it here:
Let it come to pass that gays and lesbians can with pride join together and receive all the legal and financial benefits of connubial heterosexuals.
I am sick of the constant battle with old world prejudice. Sick of ignorance and especially sick of the demagogues who whip it into hate.
Equality is Ageless
IPods that store whole music collections. Hand size computers networked across the planet. Miraculous as these would seem to our ancestors, there is an ethical achievement even more stunning: the joyful spread of equality.
Equality is old news, you say? Not for women, not for blacks, not for Native Americans, and not for gays and lesbians. Even the first glimmer of equal treatment, which applied only to landed male gentry, emerged about a century before the Declaration of Independence and its famous self-evident truth: “All men are created equal.” Given that humanity has passed the ripe old age of a hundred thousand years, this proclamation is the clarion call of a brash young heretic.
We live in the era of a mind-blowing fact: Over generations, in halting increments, civilization can wind a path of reason, even if that means deviating from barnacled social norms. Old habits die hard, but they do indeed marry the dust, even those stubbornly justified by appeals to “human nature” or sacrosanct tradition. Whatever happens next on our shared cosmic journey, we have shown that standards of justice can rise above privilege, bureaucracy, and selfishness, evolving in wonderful ways as unknown to the past as antibiotics and heart transplants.
And this is a good thing. We need flexible thinkers to deal with the implications of a headlong lunge into a future as daunting as science fiction. We need to be open-minded to merge the wisdom of the past with the liberations of discovery. Backsliding is not an option. Neither is mediocre performance . If we are to survive this Buckaroo Banzai ride into the Space Age, a place fraught with speck-sized computers and genetic re-scripting, we need to live not in the past, the present, or the future, but rather in a clear-headed mentality joining all three.
Tradition is indeed essential and liberals often fail to realize this. It provides a brake on reckless change, galvanizing debate and impelling a cautious pace. The Bible will never be obsolete; and yet its omnium-gatherum of parables and strictures, as has been the case since inception, is amenable to new insights.
Consistent application of the principle of equality, not blind faith, should be our guide. It will not do to restrict gays based on Biblical passages while ignoring similar passages that curtail women, ethnics, and pagans. Before the Civil War, the Bible was used to justify slavery, but we moved beyond that. Reason took another step. A fairness-based interpretation of Scripture brought us to celebrate one of our greatest accomplishments: Emancipation.
The fight over gay marriage is just the latest in a series of bouts with prejudice. The basic weapons have been the same for centuries: fear, outrage, misery, and hope. Both sides lay claim to all these, and in the end we must turn not only to consistency and fairness, but also to the proven point that humanity can rise above fear using the ladder of reason. In this task, our surest rung is that self-evident concept which distinguishes enlightened progress from the medieval lethargy of hierarchs and despots: Equality.