Davis Rawson"An unconstitutional solution in search of a nonexistent problem."
That was Gov. Angus King's summation of the ban on same-sex marriages that he refused to sign last week, thus allowing it to become law anyway and not go to the referendum most folks felt would have been hotly vitriolic and irreparably divisive.
Once the rhetoric had drained away, a scummy tub ring would have been left around the state of Maine.
King clearly wrestled with this decision. Just six weeks ago he said he was "inclined to sign it" if the initiated referendum was passed by the Legislature, thus precluding the need for a popular vote.
But the governor was turned off by the hate-filled testimony at the referendum's hearing. He realized its mean-spirited proponents wanted to keep the issue alive to further their own questionable goals.
And he pointed to its probable unconstitutionality, specifically the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. That's the one that guarantees Nevada divorces have to be recognized in Maine.
He was asked what he would have done had the same-sex marriage ban come to him as a bill, rather than a referendum. "I probably would have vetoed it," he said. That's a long journey from "I'm inclined to sign it."
King's decision was evidently a tortuous one: "I have a deep respect for the institution of marriage and its religious roots; to many, including me, it is literally a sacrament . . ."
But that didn't stop the Outraged Right from hammering him. Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League of Maine wrote King that his "inaccurate and uncharitable thoughts" sounded as if they had been uttered by homosexual activists.
In fact, having affronted the Legislature's majority who voted for the ban and the 62,000 people who signed the referendum petitions, King clearly had aligned himself with those same "homosexual activists." Not only that but he is on the wrong side of the abortion issue.
Consequently Heath fulminated at King: "On these issues, you are not an independent. You are clearly a political activist interested in preserving the post-Christian ideological consensus in Maine."
Does that mean the governor won't be asked to deliver the invocation at the League's next state convention?
Well that's all behind us now. The next battle is scheduled for Tuesday at the Augusta Civic Center where they're still cleaning up the fire and brimstone ashes from the same-sex marriage hearing.
The issue will be an old one, introduced to the Maine Legislature 10 times in the past 20 years: gay rights. After years of trying, the Legislature actually passed the anti-discrimination law in 1993 - even the Maine Chamber of Commerce supported it - only to suffer a veto by Gov. John R. McKernan.
King is on board this effort. So in all probability is the Senate. The bill's sponsor is Sen. Joel Abromson, a Portland Republican. There are only four known Senate opponents with a couple of question marks. The vote, therefore could be as strong as 30-5.
The House, with its influx of freshmen is harder to gauge. But the Democratic tilt taken as a result of the last election lends hope to gay rights advocates. The head count of supporters is said to be firm at 70 with 45 definite "no" votes. That leaves an undecided bloc of about 35.
This type of support won't keep the "special rights" crowd from making their case Tuesday just as they did - unsuccessfully - two years ago with their ill-conceived preemptive strike on future gay rights legislation.
And if the bill makes it through the Legislature, it won't stop them from exercising the People's Veto, an obscure, difficult and almost never-used constitutional provision that allows opponents to mount a petition drive and attempt to overturn a law by plebiscite.
JOBS FOR GAYS
In an incredible effort to be charitable and accommodate wrong-headed thought, I can see an obvious compromise here if only Concerned Maine Families and other conservatives are content to relax the tension now that they've won on same-sex marriages.
I'm predicting that gay rights will zip into law this year, really a simple matter of extending basic human rights to folks who currently don't enjoy them. But I'm also predicting that Carolyn Cosby, Larry Lockman and their ilk won't be content with the marriage ban; they'll want to outlaw hand-holding too and will twist logic and create irrational fears to get what they want.
In fact, they've already started. Try this one: Gay rights legislation will now force small businessmen to hire homosexuals. It's a "jobs bill for gays." So finally I'm predicting they'll fail and emerge dispirited and hopefully discredited.
And then Maine can start dealing with constitutional solutions to problems that truly exist.
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