Stand Up for Maine—And for Marriage

First published at on October 9, 2009

As much as I aim to seek common ground, some aspects of the marriage debate make it impossible. Consider, for example, the Maine campaign.

If you haven’t been following the campaign, you should. To my mind, our side has done a model job in framing the debate, telling our stories, responding quickly to opponents’ false messages, and perhaps most important, tailoring its own message to the local climate rather than simply going with stock arguments. Check out the ads at

By contrast, the other side is essentially a re-run of the California Prop. 8 campaign (which is not surprising, as they’ve hired the same mastermind, Frank Schubert).

Of course, the other side won Prop. 8. Polls in Maine had us trailing until recently. But if ever there were a campaign that could come from behind, the Protect Maine Equality campaign is it. If you don’t believe me, compare their website to the opposition’s (, and see if you don’t come away impressed and encouraged.

You are also likely to come away angry with the opposition. Good. Channel that anger into action by going back to and making a sizeable donation.

Of all the things that irk me about the other side’s ads—and there are plenty—what struck me the most was Boston College law professor Scott Fitzgibbon’s claim that if marriage equality stands, “It will no longer be live and let live. Homosexual marriage will be the law whether Mainers like it or not.”

Let me repeat that, in case you didn’t get it the first time. Allow gays to marry, and “It will no longer be live and let live.”

If someone were awarding prizes for bizarre commentary in the marriage debate, this claim would be a formidable contender. The statement is so self-contradictory that it’s hard to discern its intended meaning.

But I’ll try. For marriage-equality opponents, “live and let live” must mean something like, “You are free to live as you please as long as I am free to live in a world in which you are not free to live as you please.” (Ouch. My brain hurts.)

If there’s anything worthwhile about the Fitzgibbon ad, it’s that it sharply exposes our opponents’ real intentions. They don’t merely want the freedom to marry whom they love, to worship as they choose, to raise their children as they see fit, and so on. They want the freedom to live in a world where those who differ don’t get the same freedom. In short, they want the exact opposite of a free society.

Whenever an educated person (like Fitzgibbon, who is a law professor) says something so bizarre and stupid, I assume that there must be something true somewhere in the neighborhood. If not the neighborhood, the county, perhaps.

In this case, the truth lies in the fact that freedom has a flip side, so to speak—namely, that other people may freely choose to do things that you don’t like.

Whether Maine retains marriage equality or not, our opponents are free to teach their children (and anyone else willing to listen) that same-sex relationships are wrong, that our marriages are not “real” marriages, that our families are not “real” families, and so on. They are free to do the same with respect to interfaith marriages, second marriages, whatever. You and I are free to tell them why they’re wrong.

What they are not free to do is to live in a world where everyone agrees with them. Nor are they free to live in a world where marriage between two men or two women is unthinkable, unspeakable, or legally impossible. Even if we lose Maine, we will still have marriage equality elsewhere.

And there’s the crux of the matter, and the point at which the debate really becomes a zero-sum game. Our opponents want a world where same-sex marriage is not even an option. In particular, they don’t want their kids—some of whom might be gay—to see it as an option.

By contrast, I want every gay and lesbian child to know that when they grow up, they deserve someone to have and to hold, for better or worse, ‘til death do they part.

I want them to know that when they fall in love and seek commitment, their love is real, and worthy, and good. I want them to know that marriage IS an option.

If you want that, too, support marriage equality in Maine and elsewhere.