AUGUSTA, Maine — Representatives of professionals who interact with children and families spoke out Thursday in favor of a bill that would make same-sex marriage legal in Maine.
Speakers from organizations made up of pediatricians, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and advocates for children said at a news conference held in the State House that their research shows children thrive in homes where the parents have loving and committed relationships.
David Lilly of the Maine Psychological Association, which has 600 members in Maine, said the development, adjustment and well-being of children does not differ markedly whether their parents are gay or straight.
“The data show what most parents know from experience: It is the quality of parenting, the relationship of the parents to one another, and the relationship of the parents to their children, that is important,” Lilly of Freeport said.
Since Sen. Dennis S. Damon, D-Trenton, announced in January that he would sponsor An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom, supporters have held a series of press conferences, similar to Thursday’s event, to demonstrate that the measure has broad-based support.
Rep. Leslie Fossel, R-Alna, has introduced a competing measure, LD 1118, that would extend to couples on Maine’s Domestic Partner Registry the same legal rights and benefits as married couples, but would not create civil unions.
At Thursday’s press conference, Dr. Daniel Summers, an Augusta pediatrician who spoke on behalf of the Maine Chapter of the American Pediatric Association, which has 200 members, said he sees all kinds of families in his practice.
“No two are exactly alike,” he said. “The adults in the family are united by a common desire to do the best they can for their children.”
Catherine Stakeman, executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said that passing Damon’s bill “will benefit children and will provide them with the same protections currently available to other families.”
Laura McCown of Portland disagrees with her colleagues. She has worked as a social worker and therapist in public and private schools and at a community counseling center, according to Maine Marriage Initiative, a group backed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which op-poses Damon’s bill.
In a press release issued by MMI last week, McCown said same-sex parents aren’t able to give children the proper influence in gender role training.
“Kids emulate what they see,” she said. “They need to learn from both men and women how to behave in society. If you have two women raising boys, for example, it’s going to be extremely difficult for those boys to develop gender identity, unless the women have a very secure and trust-worthy male who can fulfill that role of example.”
McCown is taking a break from her career as a social worker to raise her three children, according to the press release.
A hearing on LDs 1020 and 1118 is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, April 24, before the Judiciary Committee at Cony High School in Augusta.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.