Let’s cut to the chase

Besides to the abortion question, any thoughtful observer will agree that Tuesday’s gay rights referendum is just about as fascinating and complicated as political life in America can get.

While I am still confused about how to vote, I do believe that homosexuals should be afforded the same rights as anyone else. Whether they are truly being discriminated against, I don’t know. But I do know it shouldn’t happen.

Theoretically, Tuesday’s vote should be limited to whether voters believe gays should be treated fairly in terms of housing, credit, public accommodation and employment. Unfortunately, the decision isn’t that black and white for many Mainers. For many voters, which box they check on Tuesday depends on their feelings regarding gay marriage. It’s time we acknowledge this underlying concern.

Red and white roadside signs for “Yes on 1” spell this out clearly. Conservatives, if that’s the proper term, are calling voters on Tuesday to “protect marriage.” Opponents of the referendum – folks who align themselves with Maine Won’t Discriminate – are crying foul, and are charging the “Yes” people with using scare tactics by bringing up this marriage issue.

Let’s not be naive. The push for gay rights is leading somewhere. With the headlines coming out of California and Massachusetts this year announcing homosexual marriage, it’s not a leap to think gay marriage is what the so-called “gay agenda” is leading to. We’ve already seen it, and we have other countries like neighboring Canada to act as models.

People who oppose gay rights oppose them mostly on the fear of what these rights will lead to. They are skeptical that homosexuals will stop with this amendment. They are sure it will lead to more.

As a result, Tuesday’s vote is a sort of referendum on gay marriage. It’s just unfortunate the Maine Won’t Discriminate side won’t acknowledge this aspect of the vote. It would be nice to have an honest discussion now rather than dragging this issue out.

It’s also clear that our society seems to be clashing over this homosexual marriage issue. Supporters of gay rights are calling conservatives bigots for showing little in the way of brotherly love. And conservatives are questioning the morality of liberals.

Conservatives are scared of this amendment and they have good reason. They believe that marriage should be a protected right of men and women. Nothing’s going to change their minds; just as nothing will change the minds of gay rights supporters. But the answer isn’t for both sides to keep fighting against each other. The answer is to take marriage out of the government’s hands altogether. Government should perform civil unions and leave marriages to the churches. And those who are religious should get “married” in the church or synagogue or mosque. Those who don’t care about religion, but want to be afforded the same rights as married couples, can get civil unions.

Get marriages out of big government’s hands. Government tends to ruin well-intended ideas, and this is just another example of it. It would be prudent to leave the sanctity of marriage to the Bible, where it was conceived, and not state constitutions that seem to flail and flop about with each new societal evolution.

As Rodney King famously said 13 years ago, “Can’t we all just get along?” The answer to that, for clashers in the culture wars, is yes. But it’ll take work. And it’ll take removing man-made obstacles such as government-sanctioned marriages.

Homosexuals want to be treated fairly, as Rep. Mark Bryant, D-Windham, has written in this newspaper. We should all want homosexuals to be treated fairly. But maybe that happy destination won’t be reached until gay marriage is no longer perceived as a threat to folks who believe marriage is God-inspired. If gay marriage were taken out of the realm of possibility, this amendment would probably pass. Conservatives would then have no reason not to extend the same rights that blacks, women, disabled and religious people have. And they would probably lead the fight to change the law.

God set up marriage, let Him have it back. And let government have its civil unions. And maybe then we can be done with this legal and societal mess we find ourselves in year after year.

-John Balentine, editor


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