June 21, 2018
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Ashamed by election results

By Anne L. Hess, Special to the BDN

To my gay and lesbian friends and relatives: I am ashamed and heartsick about Tuesday’s election results that cancel out what were to be your full rights as citizens of Maine. I obviously do not speak for the thousands of voters who could not look beyond their own prejudiced self-interest to do what is fair: Full equality under the law.

As a person who used to be proud of my adopted state, I apologize. When Maine leads, it is not always in a good direction, I see.

I am sorry that I did not do enough to help you. I talked with my friends and others of my acquaintance to make sure they heard my opinions in support of the cause of fairness. It wasn’t enough. I should have done more.

I am sorry that most of the time I don’t know you. You have lived under the burden of prejudice a long time, and you’ve learned to hide your identity from us. Because I don’t know who you are, I can’t appreciate the valuable contributions you make to our lives — as teachers, therapists, police officers, ministers, soldiers, mechanics, welders, physicians just to name a few — thus I don’t realize how much like me you are. But I understand your need to remain hidden, more so today than yesterday.

I am sorry that I’ve never walked in your shoes. I can imagine how tough it must be, but of course I don’t know from experience. You must have to be on guard all the time: never hug your loved one in public, never hold hands, always keep your behavior so circumspect that you don’t raise suspicions.

What if I were living in a Muslim country, and couldn’t let anyone find out I wasn’t Muslim? Or I lived in an African nation and couldn’t let anyone know I was white? You must be the bravest people in our world; I couldn’t do it, I’m too much of a coward.

I’m sorry that we cause you so much pain. You have to fight to visit your loved one in the hospital and present tons of paperwork to make decisions for him or her in a life-threatening situation when all I have to do is just show up. You can’t assume your loved one will inherit your money when you die, or receive your pension. You can’t put your life partner on your health insurance, or bank account. It must wear you down, all those details every day that confront you.

I am sorry that so many of us don’t really understand what love is. I guess some folks have stricter rules about love than others. We have to realize that love comes unbidden, that the object of our love usually walks up to us uninvited; we must either do the best with what life offers us or live without joy.

I am sorry for the tone of the campaign against you. It was nasty, sneaky, filled with lies and fear-mongering. It was masterfully disingenuous. It epitomized the evil it pretends to hate, as it made unconscionable insults to your character and worth as human beings. That prejudice is stark, and reminds me of the hypocritical comments about black people that were so common in the South when I grew up. The campaign rhetoric made me angry many days, angry that my fellow straights could be so hateful, bigoted and primitive.

I am sorry that I really don’t understand what this referendum battle was really about. Was the campaign really about marriage? Surely it can’t hurt anyone to allow two loving people to marry. If it does, how can we approve marriage between two people who abuse each another, who do it only to legalize sex, to get rich, or who commit adultery? Are those to be more sanctified than the recognition of love?

I am sorry that you, or I in this case, cannot experience life free of religious oppression. I grew up believing in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, that we are all equal under the law and can live our lives as we judge best without the heavy hand of another’s beliefs interfering. But who can fight against those claiming to have the inside track to God’s very own thoughts? Whatever happened to the message of kindness and tolerance, of love and compassion, that our great philosophers and religious leaders have tried to convey so many times over many millennia?

I suspect it won’t help very much, but please accept my apology.

Anne L. Hess is a retired neuropsychologist.

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