Gay rights traps King<BR>The Maine Archive on the Queer Resources Directory
CentralMaine TODAY

Tuesday, January 28, 1997

Gay rights traps King
Same-sex marriage ban leads down different path

by Dave Rawson

To his credit, Gov. Angus King was an up-front opponent of the discriminatory anti-gay rights initiative defeated by Maine voters two years ago.

He has also characterizes himself as a proponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians and says he will sign a bill if it gets to him.

However, apparently marriage isn't a right. How else to explain his position on the referendum proposing a ban on same-sex marriages? He said last week he was "inclined to sign it" into law if it were to be passed by the Legislature, thus precluding a referendum vote.

King heaped all sorts of qualifiers and conditions on his tepid support of the unnecessary proposal -- including the speculation that it would have to face court challenges and constitutional muster but that doesn't condone his finger-in-the-wind waffling.

Conveniently for King, a poll by Strategic Marketing Services shows that 54 percent of those Mainers surveyed favored a ban on same-sex marriages with 42 percent in favor. However, the margin of error hovered around 8 percent. At best King is confusing and inconsistent on this issue. And that demands a comparison with his predecessor, a man who ate waffles on a weekly basis.

MCKERNAN TWO-STEP

John R. McKernan first stepped in it a decade ago when he said he would probably sign the Christian Civic League's ill-conceived proposal to ban pornography in Maine, presuming it wasn't unconstitutional (sound familiar?) Funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth. The idiotic initiative was shown the door at the state's Republican convention, was rejected by the Legislature and was bounced by the electorate.

Then there was the McKernan Two-step over gay rights legislation passed by both House and Senate for the first time ever in 1993, after eight previous tries. McKernan vetoed the bill, you may recall, because it didn't have a referendum provision attached.

At the time, it was noted he signed into law legislation codifying Roe vs. Wade, a ratification of reproductive rights arguably as controversial as a ratification of gay rights, but no mention of a referendum for the former.

His flaccid justification: The abortion rights bill merely re-established the status quo whereas the gay rights bill would be a major change in state social policy.

SIGNIFICANT SUPPORT

He also demanded "significant support" for any gay rights legislation in both House and Senate prior to a possible signing of the bill. (It passed the House 72-60 and the Senate 21-14, evidently not significant enough.)

We all interpreted that to mean he would veto it unless there was a chance of an embarrassing override; if the "significant support" existed he would flow with the tide and no veto.

Our current governor is showing a similar willingness to eat his cake and have it too. In King's case either he's opposed to same-sex marriages or they don't bother him all that much. He hasn't made that clear yet.

But he ought to be opposed in principal to anything hatched by the homophobic hate group, Concerned Maine Families, whose mission it is to meddle in people's lives.

This splinter group of bigoted busybodies originated the rights-restriction referendum, which was defeated in 1995, 53 percent to 46 percent, carrying only five counties.

They're back, panicked that Mainers will fly off to Hawaii, get married, fly back and begin to adopt children, qualify for spousal health benefits, wear wedding rings in public, coach Little League teams, drop each other off at work, hold hands and generally lead lives hitherto reserved for "normal" families.

Not that gay couples don't do all that scary stuff now anyway.

INCLINED TO SIGN

Hence the preemptive strike by Carolyn Cosby, Larry Lockman and the other half dozen wing nuts for whom a life without intolerance would be one not worth living.

These folks have convinced themselves the gay lifestyle is a perversion and it is therefore the state's duty to step in and stamp it out, even if there's nothing yet to stamp. One can't be too careful.

Unfortunately the governor is "inclined" to sign their bill, presuming what they propose is not unconstitutional, thereby lending credence to these reactionary rabble-rousers.

After all, governor, next people will want to be marrying their pets. Perhaps Maine should ban that too before it gets out of hand and his-and-her leashes are sold openly.

"It's unfortunate we have to deal with it," King confessed last week. "It's not a burning issue." Exactly. And until the Hawaii case is finally resolved by the courts, it's not even a simmering issue.

Maine has shown tolerance in the past as a live-and-let-live state. It's too bad a governor feels it necessary to give a morale boost to narrow-minded neo-Puritans who would bring state lawmakers into a couple's conjugal bed, regardless of sexual orientation.

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