Sunday, November 5, 1995

Time to face truth behind Question 1

©Copyright 1995 Guy Gannett Communications

Turn off the babble.

The vote on Question 1 is only two days away and we no longer have time to weigh the latest volley from Concerned Maine Families against the subsequent salvo from Maine Won't Discriminate.

We've debated this anti-gay rights referendum from almost every angle - from what the Bible may or may not say, to where the state's economy may or may not go; from gay militants who may or may not have sneaked into Maine, to donations from afar that may or may not be shady.

Now it's time to stop. Each of us needs to take a quiet moment to read Question 1 - all 48 convoluted words - and ponder it from the most important angle.

We need to put a face on it.

Go ahead. Try it. Nobody will know.

Imagine, just for this moment, that someone you love has confided in you that he or she is a homosexual. Your brother or sister, perhaps. Your favorite cousin. Your son or your daughter.

No way, you say? Can't happen? Not in a million years?

Try harder.

How you react to the news is completely up to you: Anger that this person you thought you knew is someone quite different; guilt for not spotting this sooner; disgust at the mere mention of the ''H'' word.

And, if your feelings for this person run deep enough, Fear. You know if this secret gets out, trouble will follow - in the neighborhood, the school, the workplace. In a dark alley.

Question 1 justifies that fear. That is what makes it so dangerous.

Carolyn Cosby, leader of Concerned Maine Families, portrays Question 1 as a crusade against homosexuals who hunger for everything we hold dear.

She points to their alleged wealth - proof that they plan to hijack our economy.

She decries Portland's gay rights ordinance - proof that they're in-

filtrating our halls of government.

She cites a steady flow of out-of-state contributions opposing her cause - proof that Maine is under attack by a national gay militia that can't wait to get its hands on our jobs, our homes, our children.

But in the end, Cosby proves only one thing. Homosexuals have good reason to be afraid.

And as long as we look at ''them'' yet see no faces, they have good reason to seek protection.

Last week, I asked Cosby to put a face on Question 1. How would she feel if she suddenly learned that her child was gay?

''Oh, come on,'' she said dismissively. ''Do you know how many times I've been asked that?''

Sorry. So what's your answer?

She spoke at first about how ''a parent'' would feel.

No, not just any parent. You. How would Carolyn Cosby feel?

She hesitated, said she'd still love the child and tacked on a few but's.

''But,'' she concluded, ''I can't imagine being here under these circumstances today and having a child who's a homosexual.''

Bingo. That's the problem with Cosby's one-way rhetoric - it collapses under the weight of a ''what if.''

In these final, furious 48 hours, do a good deed for yourself and your state. Walk up to Question 1 and touch it - if only with your imagination.

Compare the slogans swirling through your head with the conscience rooted in your heart - and see if they match.

Stop arguing about affirmative action, block grants, local control and all the other red herrings dumped into this debate.

Retreat to a quiet place - like the voting booth - and do to Question 1 what we all should have done a long time ago.

Put a face on it.

Bill Nemitz is a columnist for The Portland Newspapers.

You can contact the editors at The Portland Newspapers.

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