This year is our 10th anniversary. Actually, it’s our 10th, 6th, and 5th anniversary. In 1999, we had a wedding in our church in front of friends and family. In 2003, when Maine introduced a statewide domestic partnership registry, we enrolled as domestic partners. We felt it was important symbolically, even if it granted us very few rights, most of them only applicable when we die. In 2004, when same-sex marriage was made legal in Erica’s home state of Massachusetts, we received our marriage certificate and were legally married.
However, because we are two women, our home state of Maine does not recognize our marriage. Recently, Sen. Dennis Damon, along with more than 60 co-sponsors from both political parties, introduced a bill in the Maine Legislature to end this discrimination.
What discrimination do we face, and why does marriage equality matter to us? As children growing up with the Maine ethics of fairness and live-and-let-live, we were fortunate to have full acceptance from our families, friends, schoolmates and communities. Our parents and grandparents taught us that love is precious, and when you find it, you hang onto it. They also taught us that all people were created equal, and we believed them.
However, when we started our life together as adults in 1999, at ages 21 and 22, we learned that not all people are treated equal. Because our marriage is not recognized in Maine, we pay hundreds of dollars more for health care. Even though our employers offer domestic partner health insurance, the health benefits of non-married partners are fully taxable. In today’s economy, with the rising costs of health care, discrimination is a luxury we cannot afford.
When we file our taxes, we must currently file “single,” even though we are legally married. If one of us dies first, or if we become disabled, unemployed or face a family economic crisis, our relationship currently means nothing to our state. Despite all our efforts to legalize our relationship, we would not be eligible to receive each other’s Social Security, disability insurance or be considered as spouses for other state and federal benefits. Ironically, since we are legally married in Massachusetts but not recognized as married in Maine, we would be unable to divorce in our home state — so at this rate, we’re likely to be an old married couple for sure.
We feel that 10 years is enough. We have proven our commitment over and over, to our community and to our government, and it is time to fully recognize all Maine families. Decades of racial segregation in U.S. history and ethnic and linguistic discrimination right here in Aroostook County have shown that separate is never equal.
We ask you, our northern Maine legislators, friends and neighbors, to support An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom. The time is now for marriage equality in Maine. For more information about the issue, or to share your own story of why you support marriage equality in Maine, please visit http://whymarriagematterstoME.wordpress.com or e-mail whymarriagematterstoME@yahoo.com.
Erica and Kate Quin-Easter of Stockholm will celebrate their 10th anniversary in June.