©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
In the end, Gov. Angus King did the only thing he could do.
Let Carolyn Cosby take her bows - at least for now - for winning her ban on gay marriages. Then kick Maine's queen bigot off the stage.
''I just couldn't in good conscience put my name on it,'' King said Tuesday, one day after the ban became law without his signature. ''It's an unconstitutional solution in search of a nonexistent problem.''
In other words, the ''citizen-initiated'' drama that just played itself out at the State House was a classic Cosby con-job, a self-righteous ego trip cleverly scripted to read like a morality play.
The simple truth is that gay marriage, good idea or not, was never a burning issue in this state before Cosby and her Concerned Maine Families ignited it in May and spent the next six months fanning the flames.
And while Cosby's call to ''protect the institution of marriage from the marauding of opportunistic gay activists'' played well down at the local supermarket and later before a squeamish Legislature, anyone who knows Cosby knows this latest act wasn't just about how homosexuals in Maine may or may not pledge their love to each other.
It was about keeping Cosby in the spotlight - the real source of her higher power - for as long as possible.
And from that perspective, it backfired.
Talk to the lawmakers who passed the ban in Maine's House and Senate last week and you'll find many who did so not out of loyalty to Cosby, but because they wanted to avoid another referendum like the one two years ago - when Cosby and her cohorts tried and failed to chase homosexuals out from under the Maine Constitution.
''I shall pray (the marriage ban) will be declared null and void by the (courts),'' said Sen. Joel Abromson, R-Portland, one of the few lawmakers who had the courage to vote ''no.''
King also had problems with the bill - and spent most of his week end agonizing over how to handle it.
Philosophically, the governor wrestled with his deep-rooted religious belief in the ''sacrament of marriage,'' his civic belief that everyone deserves equal protection under the law and his emerging scientific belief that ''homosexuality is essentially genetically determined,'' not a matter of personal choice.
Politically, however, King saw right through the ban. For Cosby and other ''leading proponents,'' he concluded, ''the campaign mattered more than the goal.''
And so, unable to endorse the law but unwilling to strengthen Cosby's spotlight with a veto, King wisely put down his pen and passed.
''Part of the reason to let this thing become law is to deny them the opportunity to hammer away at the public about this issue,'' he said.
Besides, King predicted, the ban will ''eventually fall on its own discriminatory weight'' when it faces an inevitable court challenge.
It was all too much for poor Cosby, whose short-lived performance will soon be eclipsed by passage of a comprehensive, statewide gay rights bill. (Don't expect the Matron of Morality to muscle her way under that spotlight - it all but fried her 17 months ago.)
As the curtains fell around her Monday, Cosby sputtered that King ''needs to be governor of all the people of Maine, not just a narrow special-interest group.''
Give it a rest, Carolyn. You have your misguided marriage ban - constitutional flaws and all. What you're not going to get is a fight.
Now be a good ''winner'' and get off the stage.
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