Tonight’s film, Question 1 impartially follows the 2009 election campaign to keep same-sex marriage legal in Maine. It is an honor to have the film here tonight in discussion as the filmmakers, Joe Fox and James Nubile are currently completing the final cut.
In May, 2009, Maine’s Gov. John Balducci signed into law An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom which allowed same-sex couples the right to marry; while extending the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages, not just to religious clergy, but to any “person authorized to join persons in marriage.” Seems reasonable.
Maine, which already allowed domestic partnerships between same-sex couples, was to be the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage through the legislative process with a governor’s signature, rather than following a judicial ruling, as was the case in Vermont. But uptight Bible-thumpers and anti-gay forces, being the meanie-pants they are, launched a people’s veto campaign to repeal the act the day after it was signed into law.
Question 1 takes us into both sides of the emotional campaign, as volunteers work to get out the vote and eagerly watch as results come in. The “Yes on One” anti- same-sex marriage campaign has some backstage drama, as campaign chairman Marc Mutty (who calls same-sex marriage “a fad”) is bumped from the limelight by his campaign manager. The Yes campaigners pray and sing hymns as the results start coming in, while at the “No on One” offices elation turns to sorrow as ballots are counted. Same-sex marriage loses by a 4% majority, mainly from votes cast in small towns and rural areas.
Not only did Maine’s LGBT couples loose the right to marry, but a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law estimated that the state lost
an increase of $3.6 million in revenues over the next three years; the result of an increase of sales tax revenues of approximately $3.1 million and new marriage license fees of $500,000.
A domestic partnership, which Maine has, is not the same as marriage. I strongly feel marriages should be civil in nature and grant all civilly joined couples, regardless of gender make-up, the same and equal rights. A religious marriage is optional and up to the participants. Keep in mind that the Pope or Pat Robertson can perform a marriage ceremony, but unless the paperwork is sent into the state within a certain number of days, and recorded and filed, it’s not a legal marriage. Which, of course, flies in the face of religious advocates of man-woman marriage being the only God-sanctioned version of union. Marriage is in fact a civil contract between two people which provides certain economic and social advantages. Clergy should have the right to decide whether or not to perform the service. I’m not Catholic, Muslim or Jewish, ergo, I can’t marry in those congregations or houses of worship. And in California, opposite sex couples cannot be granted a civil union, they can only get married; therefore a civil union is not the same as a marriage.
Maine’s 2009 vote may have given same-sex marriage opponents a boost, but it also showed advocates how to strategize and focus as the struggle for marriage equality continues state by state.