Sunday, September 23, 2012

Get it right next time

In 2009 Maine became the first state to legalize marriage equality by having it pass through the legislature and then be signed into law by a governor.  And yet, same sex marriage is not legal in Maine.

The reason for this is a massive fuck up on the part of the citizenry of my state, a fuck up of epic proportions.  I was not a part of the fuck up, I voted against it, and yet still I feel a sense of shared responsibility for the fuck up because it was my state that did it.  My people.  Mainers.  We, collectively, fucked up.

We, collectively, took away people's rights.  We, collectively, put the breaks on progress and forced what had been a step in the right direction to break mid-stride and leave us back where we started.

Maine has a referendum process that puts power in the hands of the people, given enough signatures are collected to put the question on the ballot.  This power can be used for good or evil.  Generally speaking when good people are in office it is used for evil, when bad people are in office it is used for good.  (I didn't follow it that closely, and apparent'y it didn't work out I know that there was an attempt to use this power to overturn the voter suppression measures the new Republican leadership passed into law.)  Now the Same power that was used to subvert justice is now being used in defense of it.

So, what happened is this, enough signatures were collected to put the question of marriage equality to the people.  The law never went into effect because it remained to be seen whether or not it would be the law, massive funding was spent, by various people who had opinions on the matter one way or the other, some of it illegally (see NOM, and thanks are due to Republican Presidential Candidate Fred Karger for bringing that to our attention) and eventually the matter went to the voters.

We failed.  I voted for equality.  I voted not to strike down the law.  I voted in favor of love winning.  Didn't matter.  I was in the minority.  As a state, as a people, we failed.  The question went to us, and we got it wrong.

What remains after such a failure is the hope that we'll get it right next time.  Moral failings aren't, or at least shouldn't be, the end of the story.  Life goes on, the sun continues to rise, and that leaves us with at least the possibility of correcting our mistakes.  It leaves us with the hope that if we get it wrong we'll get it right next time.  And it's more than a hope, really, it's a responsibility.  It's a moral imperative.  If you do something wrong it falls to you to fix it.  If you don't take up that responsibility perhaps someone else will, perhaps someone else won't, but either way you've stacked moral failing on top of moral failing.  First what you did wrong, second you're failure to make it right.

Next time is the coming election.  Republicans control the government now, and there's no way that they'd vote in favor of marriage equality.  But that doesn't matter, because in Maine we have a referendum process.  Enough signatures were collected to put the question of marriage equality to the people.  In the coming election it will be up to us, the people of Maine, whether or not to vote for equality, for equal rights, for families, for the morally right thing.

Since we got it wrong, we have to get it right next time.

So, hopefully, in 2012 we, the people of Maine, will get right what we got wrong in 2009.

More information, for those interested, can be found here.


  1. If you can keep trying until it gets in... can the other side then keep trying until it gets out again? Does a couple affected by this law have any ability to plan for the future?

    1. It's somewhat complicated.

      This is my non-lawyer understanding:

      It already is a referendum, so it can't be put on hold to await the results of a referendum like the original law was. Which means that if we pass it then people will be able to get married. Once people are married that will make repeal a lot harder for those who oppose marriage equality.

      Part of the reason California's repeal is having trouble in courts is that having some people legally married (those who got married before the repeal) while others are told that there's no such thing as legal marriage for them has some serious issues concerning equal protection under the law.

      Either a Maine attempt at repeal would run into the same problems, or it would have to somehow nullify existing marriages. In that case those opposed are literally trying to take away people's marriages, which is a much harder sell.

      Further, the campaign itself is notably changing people's opinions in the state, and once you've convinced someone to view their neighbors as human beings it can be difficult to convince to go back to seeing them as subhuman, which means that those won over to the side of marriage equality are probably not going to be won back to the other side.

      However, yes. If they can gather enough signatures they can put the question on the ballot next year to ask if we want the state to stop granting marriage licenses to same sex couples.

      Because it is a law, not a court ruling, it can be changed as easily as any other law. Any law that can be passed can be repealed.

    2. Any law that can be passed can be repealed.
      Technical nitpick: Except for an "entrenched" Constitutional amendment which restricts what laws can be passed and changes the amending clause. For instance, the Constitution says that "no state shall, without its consent, be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate" - and not even an amendment can change that.

      I'd be astonished if either side in this controversy was ever able to do that, though. Not even the Bill of Rights is entrenched in that way.

  2. Wish you guys luck getting it right for great justice.

    It is kind of a trip living somewhere this fight has been over since before I moved back. Equality. Duh. Moving on.

    My town is really weird, what with our relatively popular gay Republican former mayor and some state senator or something who wants to be a congresscritter.

  3. Good skill in your populace making the correct decision this time, and in maintaining that correct decision in the years afterward.