On the evening of Wednesday, March 4, a group of people gathered in USM’s Woodbury Campus Center to discuss the Marriage Bill for same-sex couples in Maine. Representatives from Equality Maine and the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition came to share some information about legitimizing same-sex marriage in Maine and what we can do to support the cause and the bill.
Darlene Huntress from Equality Maine started with some conversation about the lack of personal touch in politics and a related “aha!” moment that she recently had. While at a talk with a local senator, she watched as a lesbian couple tried to fight for their rights. As the senator was trying to talk about strategies, plans and timing without a hint of emotion or acknowledgement of the pain that same-sex couples endure, one of the woman stopped him to say “How many people did you have to ask for permission from when you wanted to marry your wife?” She then named all the legal representatives that she had to propose to in addition to her partner, as if asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you wasn’t hard enough already.
Huntress said that thinking of all the same-sex couples who love each other so much and want to get married gets her out of bed in the morning. It is the driving force behind her passion to fight for equality. She says “when we fight, we bring light to LGBT people and open doors for other issues that are important in our community.”
Marriage equality is a civil rights issue, and grassroots organizations wont quit until there is justice and fairness in our society. For years our guests (Huntress, Patrick Wang, Katy Jayne) and hundreds of others have been working on a marriage equality bill that will be going through a judiciary committee this April. According to Patrick Wang, another Equality Maine representative, this committee frames the conversation regarding whether or not the bill should be passed in November. But there is hope. “Senators wanted to pass a civil union bill in Maine. With the grassroots organizers and lobbyists help, we were able to get them to shut down that bill and cosponsor our marriage bill.” Civil unions just aren’t good enough. All people deserve the option of full-blown marriage, and the recognition that nothing is inferior or less meaningful about whatever relationship they choose to have.
Right now Maine seems like a pretty queer-friendly state. Especially Portland. Of course we all know there have been hate-crimes here, but that is going to happen anywhere, and for the most part Portland is awesome about diversity; as Huntress said, it’s been called “the mini San Francisco.” On November 4, 2008, Equality Maine handed out postcards for people to sign in support of same-sex marriage. Their goal was to identify 10,000 supporting voters in Maine. At the end of the day they had identified over 33,000.
That in itself is wonderful, but there is still much work to be done. Equality Maine is always desperately in need of volunteers. They have 4-5 weeks to reach as many across Maine as possible. As anyone who has ever been up north can guess, the further from Portland calls go, the harder it is to find and inspire people who believe in equality. According to Huntress, at least 100,000 people in Maine need to be mobilized. “When you give people a chance to participate in change, it’s so empowering for them. It’s going to take a small army to do this.You gotta fight for civil rights, you gotta make things happen yourself.”
If you are at all interested in helping Maine become an equal state, please get in touch with Equality Maine. You can stop by their office in Portland at 1 Pleasant St. (entrance on Center St.), call them at 207-761-3732 or visit their website at www.equalitymaine.org
If you would like to support in another way, call your legislators today and leave a message with your name, number, where you live, and say that you urge them to support the Marriage Equality Bill. The number for the house legislator is 1-800-423-2900, and the senate is 1-800-423-6900.