October 9, 2012
By Matt Baume
Two new anti-gay ads just started running in Maine this week. And as usual, they’re full of misleading, hurtful statements.
We can break down the claims in these commercials by using the testimony from AFER’s Prop 8 trial. That case was like a marriage equality “truth commission” that, for the first time, examined our opponents’ claims in a federal court of law. And we found that in court, where there’s no room to hide behind misleading statements and vague threats, the arguments of our opponents simply have no basis in fact. They melt away.
Here’s the first one:
“If Question 1 passes, redefining marriage, we can expect consequences for Mainers.”
Let’s stop right there. Question 1 is the ballot measure that would allow the state to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. If it doesn’t pass, the consequences for Mainers is clear: no marriage for gays and lesbians. That is immediately harmful to those couples and their kids.
So, what are they claiming are the consequences if it does pass? Well, that’s a lot less clear.
“I was a successful school counselor in Maine for over 20 years. Once nominated as teacher of the year. Yet when I supported traditional marriage, they tried to get me fired.”
This is Don Mendell. And what he’s not telling you is that he didn’t just support an anti-gay law. He went on television and attacked gay and lesbian Mainers, despite being a school counselor at a public high school. Here he is back in 2009:
“Prevent Question 1 from being pushed on Maine students.”
Mendell wrote that LGBT couples “use children’s trusting nature to turn them against the natural law.”
Words like these do profound harm to young gay and lesbian people, especially when they come from a school counselor. That’s why he was investigated.
“When gay marriage has become law elsewhere, people who disagree with it have been fired, sued, fined, and punished.”
There are a lot of problems with this statement. Don wasn’t fired, sued, fined, or punished. The complaints against him were dismissed.
And marriage equality wasn’t even law during that time. So, whether or not gay and lesbian couples could get married, the complaints against him would have been exactly the same. In other words, marriage equality didn’t cause his problems. He caused them by speaking out against the very kids in his care.
The fact is, nobody gets punished just for having an opinion. There are only consequences for harassing people, or attacking them, or using public resources to discriminate, or using your position of authority to cause harm.
And that’s just what these marriage bans do. During the Prop 8 trial, Professor Lee Badgett testified that laws like Prop 8 have “inflicted substantial economic harm on same sex couples and their children.”
And Professor Gary Segura pointed out “There is no group in American society who has been targeted by ballot initiatives more than gays and lesbians.”
Now let’s take a look at the second ad.
“Marriage as a man and a woman has served Maine for hundreds of years.”
Well, it’s served some people for hundreds of years. Others, like gay and lesbian Mainers, have been out of luck.
“Marriage is more than what adults want for themselves. It’s also about the next generation.”
That’s true. And it’s why it’s so important that gay and lesbian parents be allowed to get married. Not just for themselves, for the children that they’re raising. One of the Prop 8 proponents’ own witnesses admitted as much on the stand during the trial. David Blankenhorn testified, “same-sex marriage would likely contribute to more stability and to longer-lasting relationships for same-sex couples.”
He added that the freedom to marry “would extend a wide range of the natural and practical benefits of marriage to many lesbian and gay couples and their children,” and that it would be “a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion.”
Blankenhorn’s admissions are persuasive. So persuasive, in fact, that he eventually changed his mind, and he’s now a supporter of marriage equality.
Straight couples do a great job of raising the next generation. But they’re not the only ones doing it.
“Maine law prohibits discrimination against gay men and lesbians…”
That’s true. And the reason that we prohibit discrimination is that it hurts all of society, and helps no one. As the Ninth Circuit ruled, “Prop 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California … The Constitution simply does not allow for ‘laws of this sort.’”
“And same-sex couples already have the legal protections of marriage in virtually all matters.”
Did you catch that? Virtually all matters. They’re admitting that domestic partnerships are unequal, but trying to make it okay by saying, in essence, “close enough.”
“Anything remaining can be addressed without redefining marriage.”
No. It can’t. We’ve tried. You need an army of lawyers and thousands of dollars to try to close the gap between a domestic partnership and a marriage. Not to mention, California’s had domestic partnerships since 1999, and every single year they have to pass new laws to try to close loopholes that prevent gay and lesbian couples from being treated equally.
At this point in our country’s history, we can say with confidence that separate is not equal. And it never will be.
We’re now less than a month away from the election. And the polling in Maine is encouraging, but it could still go either way, since surveys generally overstate support for the freedom to marry.
Now is a crucial time to get involved in Maine, as well as in Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Visit afer.org/election2012 for ways that you can support the freedom to marry in those states. Together, we can push back against these misleading, dangerous messages.