March 10, 2010

Legislators, governor chopped down Maine's traditional marriage law

— PLYMOUTH — I don't know anyone who looks across acres of clear-cut land and calls it ''tree equality.''

But that makes as much sense as looking at the extreme changes to Maine's marriage law approved recently by Gov. Baldacci and calling it ''marriage equality.''

Look at the facts and decide for yourself. Let's start by comparing Maine's marriage law before and after the change.

The state of Maine held the historic definition of marriage in highest regard throughout Maine law. That law told us why ''traditional monogamous marriage'' was well worth state government protection and promotion.

Maine law said, ''The union of one man and one woman joined in traditional monogamous marriage is of inestimable value to society.'' The word ''inestimable'' means too valuable to be measured or fully appreciated.

Maine's marriage law said: ''The State has a compelling interest to nurture and promote the unique institution of traditional monogamous marriage in the support of harmonious families and the physical and mental health of children.''

That part of the law is full of wonderful, important words.

''Compelling'' means the state's interest in historic marriage cannot be refuted. ''Nurture'' means to cherish, to encourage growth. To ''promote'' means to support. ''Unique'' means the only one of its kind. An ''institution'' is a well-established and familiar structure or custom.

That paragraph of Maine's marriage law ends with, ''. . . and that the State has the compelling interest in promoting the moral values inherent in traditional monogamous marriage.''

Finally, the whole purpose of Maine's marriage law was, ''To encourage the traditional monogamous family unit as the basic building block of our society, the foundation of harmonious and enriching family life;''

Maine legislators and Gov. Baldacci took every bit of the marriage law I have just outlined for you, clear-cut it and threw it out as worthless.

All that language and, more important, the meaning behind the words, is gone.

It was cut first by a majority of the Maine Legislature, who said societies were wrong for thousands of years in valuing ''traditional monogamous marriage'' as ''the basic building block of society.''

Those lawmakers came up with their new definition of marriage, which Gov. Baldacci signed into law. It starts with: ''Marriage is the legally recognized union of two people.''

The governor's new marriage law then redefines all of the historic terms we associate with marriage.

Widows aren't just women. Neither are wives and brides. Husbands, grooms, and widowers aren't just men.

In fact, the governor's new marriage law says: ''Gender-specific terms relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, including, but not limited to, 'spouse,' 'family,' 'marriage,' 'immediate family,' 'dependent,' 'next of kin,' 'bride,' 'groom,' 'husband,' 'wife,' 'widow' and 'widower,' must be construed to be gender-neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law or any other source of civil law.''

There you have it. It is a belief among those of us supporting a people's veto of this law on the Nov. 3 ballot that Mainers deserve a full and honest debate about this radical law and its impact on society in the short term, medium term and long term.

The one public hearing on this law, in Augusta, was held on a work day and was a very bad call by the legislators involved.

No one has even attempted to explain why the wonderful and meaningful wording of current law must be thrown out to fit with a new definition and concept of marriage.

No one has explained why the focus has changed from society and children to ''two people.''

We believe Maine people still believe that ''the State has a compelling interest to nurture and promote the unique institution of traditional monogamous marriage in the support of harmonious families and the physical and mental health of children.''

— Special to the Press HeraldThe state of Maine held the historic definition of marriage in highest regard throughout Maine law. That law told us why ''traditional monogamous marriage'' was well worth state government protection and promotion.

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