Same-sex marriage opponents confident -- The Maine Archive on the Queer Resources Directory

Tuesday, January 21, 1997

Same-sex marriage opponents confident

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By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
The group behind a 1995 ballot measure that would have restricted gay rights in Maine now says it has enough signatures to put a proposal before the Legislature to ban same-sex marriages.

Larry Lockman, vice chairman of Concerned Maine Families, also says the group believes lawmakers will adopt the ban outright rather than put it on the fall ballot as a referendum.

''We believe it has plenty of bipartisan support,'' Lockman said Monday. ''It's a mainstream issue.''

Lockman said Concerned Maine Families will submit its petitions and 62,157 signatures to the secretary of state today. That's about 11,000 more than the number required for a citizens' initiative to go before lawmakers.

If more than 51,000 signatures are determined to be valid, the Legislature has the option of adopting the initiative or sending the issue out for a referendum vote.

Lockman said Maine will likely have to face the issue soon because of a Hawaii court ruling suggesting that state may soon allow same-sex marriages. Most states are obliged to recognize marriages performed in other states, Lockman said, but this proposal would specifically bar Maine from recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Without that language added to Maine laws, Lockman said he expects a gay or lesbian couple would marry in Hawaii and then sue to have their union recognized in Maine.

Betsy Smith, president of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, admits that dealing with the same-sex marriage ban will be an uphill fight.

''This particular battle is not a battle that we chose. We think it's premature,'' she said, noting that the situation with Hawaii's same-sex marriages is not settled.

She said her group will have to use resources to educate lawmakers and the public on same-sex marriages when it would have preferred to put all its efforts behind a proposal to pass a law to prevent discrimination against homosexuals.

Smith noted that the same-sex marriage issue is volatile here and nationally.

Last fall, President Clinton signed a bill which denies federal recognition of homosexual marriages. The law doesn't ban gay marriages, but precludes spousal benefits, such as Social Security and veterans services, for couples in a same-sex marriage.

Wording to bar same-sex marriages in Maine would ''strengthen Maine's position against the inevitable lawsuits that will be coming,'' Lockman said.

But Patricia Peard, a family law specialist at the firm of Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson, said it may not be as simple as a change of wording.

States ''don't dishonor each others' marriages,'' Peard said. Marriage laws already vary greatly from state to state, yet marriages are recognized everywhere, she said.

Peard likened the situation to state laws in the South which for generations banned interracial marriages. Eventually, those laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.

''Gay people live together now in what amounts to same-sex marriages, and I haven't seen heterosexual marriages falling apart,'' she said.

But Lockman said a marriage between one man and one woman is ''the foundation for civilized society. Same-sex marriage is a radical experimentation with the basic structure of society. It's the last gasp of the sexual revolution of the '60s. . . that society shouldn't permit.''

Legalizing same-sex marriages also would ''mandate that schools teach that same-sex marriages are the same as heterosexual marriages,'' Lockman added. ''That would go against the strong beliefs of many parents of school-age children.''

Gov. Angus King said he won't make a decision on whether he would veto or support the Concerned Maine Families' proposal before it reaches his desk.

King also said he's not sure about another effort of Concerned Maine Families - to pressure the University of Maine System to repeal its decision to extend benefits to the partners of gay or lesbian faculty members.

Those benefits were included in a new faculty contract approved last fall.

Although the Legislature can't force the university to change the policy, it has considerable power because most of the system's funding comes from the state, Lockman said.

''They have to be held accountable for that, and this new policy is directly contrary to the wishes expressed in our citizen petition,'' he said.

King said his concern is ''not necessarily because of the same-sex aspects. It's hard to know where one stops on that issue, where to draw the line,'' he said, and how far benefits can be extended beyond spouses and family members.

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