EqualityMaine Announces Bill for Civil Marriage Equality
At a State House press conference today, EqualityMaine and several coalition partners unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine.
The bill, titled “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Damon (D-Hancock).
Not only are the folks at EqualityMaine framing this important issue correctly, they are also cutting to the truth of what the commonly-referred-to “gay marriage debate” is all about.
The good framing of the issue is made clear in the title of the bill before the Maine Legislature. “An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom,” does two important things. First, it asserts that one or more groups of citizens are being discriminated against (gays and lesbians, for example). Second, it asserts that the dominant group in this power relationship (i.e. straight people with church marriages) is not going to lose anything as a result of this new law. It’s win-win.
The cutting-to-the-truth is suggested by the bill’s title as well. “Gay marriage” is not about gays or lesbians. It’s not even about marriage. It’s about equal access to the law.
From the EqualityMaine FAQ:
How would marriage equality affect my church?
That’s entirely up to your church. Remember, the issue is civil marriage, not religious marriage ceremonies. Religious institutions are not required to perform civil marriages, and may set their own boundaries for marriage. Some faith leaders will not perform marriages for people who have been divorced, for example, or for people of different religions.
Marriage equality does not challenge the autonomy of religious institutions in any way. Advocates of marriage equality focus strictly on civil marriage, and leave decisions about religious marriage ceremonies to faith leaders.
And that’s the way it oughta be. It’s already the case in America that marriage in the eyes of the law and marriage of the eyes of the church are not the same. To assert that all persons have access to marriage under the law does not threaten any church’s definition of marriage.
I have a hunch that I’ll get some comments about this one. What are your thoughts about the struggle for civil marriage equality in the United States?