July 29, 2012

Dan Demeritt: Same-sex couples deserve recognition of lifetime commitment

Over the last couple of years, I have experienced some great highs and some humbling setbacks. Getting through the tough times was easier thanks to the love and support of my wife, Martha. And I want the same for everyone.

For more than 20 years, I have participated in Maine Republican politics because of my strongly held belief that ours is the party of freedom and opportunity. Last week, I joined the growing coalition of Maine Republicans United for Marriage because I believe we are at our best when we fight for these ideals for everyone.

I am proud that Republicans fight for lower taxes, limited government and equal opportunity. We stand against infringements on our liberties and invasions of our personal privacy. And we defend the rights of property owners and law-abiding gun owners.

It is natural to expect Republicans to fight for the rights we cherish for ourselves. The true measure of commitment to liberty is our willingness to work for the freedoms of strangers whose direction in life differs from our own or is hard to understand.

Maine law currently denies committed same-sex couples an equal chance to celebrate and protect through marriage the lives they have built together. If ours is truly a free and fair society, government should not treat one class of adult differently from another. Couples willing to share a life together should have equal access to a civil marriage license, regardless of sexual orientation.

The marriage question is about fair access and treatment at city hall, not new requirements on religious institutions. The initiative includes protections from liability for churches and clergy who choose not to perform or host same-sex marriages.

I am going to vote for the marriage initiative because I believe in freedom and opportunity for all. I am talking publicly about my position because of the difference a supportive spouse has made in my life and because of the growth I have experienced as a friend and father.

I signed the marriage fairness petition after talking with a friend of mine who has been with her partner for more than 20 years. Their love and life together is as real and stable as any couple I know, but they are denied a chance to celebrate and protect their partnership through marriage. They deserve better.

I am the world's greatest dad, according to the three little boys whose opinion matters most. I want my sons to grow up and have wives and kids of their own someday. But if they take a different path, I know I will support my boys no matter what. And I want Maine law to do the same.

There was a time when I believed that marriage had to be reserved as a union between a man and a woman. Yet the more concerned I have become about preserving my rights and providing for my family, the less I seem to care about the decisions and relationship status of other responsible adults.

The prospects for passing the marriage fairness question in Maine appear to be strong. Mainers United for Marriage is amassing a large campaign war chest, 57 percent of Mainers expressed support in a recent Critical Insights poll, and several New England states now allow gay marriage, providing nearby examples of freedom and acceptance in action.

In New Hampshire, more than 1,900 same-sex couples have wed over the last three years. In a telling sign of the public acceptance of same-sex marriage, more than 100 Republican lawmakers were part of an overwhelming majority that turned back a repeal of that state's marriage fairness law.

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