Vote yes on Question 1: ‘My love is no threat to you’

By Suzanne Carver, Special to the BDN
Posted Oct. 08, 2012, at 4:16 p.m.

My partner Sandi and I have been casually discussing potential wedding plans — a dangerous thing to do when your right to hold such an event (one with actual legal weight) depends on a popular vote in a few weeks.

A line has been drawn in the sand, and you’re either on our side, or you’re against us.

I know I shouldn’t be so black-and-white, but I can’t help it. If you live in Maine and are 18 or over, you are either going to support or castigate us at the polls Nov. 6 when you vote on Question 1. For me, it is as simple as that.

Yes on 1 means you think our family deserves the same rights as yours. No on 1 means you don’t. No matter what untruths the Protect Marriage organization publishes on its website, we do not currently have the same legal rights as married couples.

Our daughter told me she likes to drive on one of the roads near our house because of all the orange yes signs. She is 7, and she knows what it means to have people support our family or dismiss it.

Here’s what I can’t wrap my head around: It seems a majority of people against gay marriage are opposed because it conflicts with the teachings of their church. They say it is “against their religion.”

Am I just stating the obvious when I say that if gay marriage is against your religion, then you aren’t obligated to get one?

Someone once told me she just had a “difference of opinion” on the topic of gay marriage. To me, a difference of opinion is that I like heath bar ice cream, and you like mint chip. If it is your opinion that gay marriage is wrong, feel free to think such things, but think what you are taking away from us if you cast a no vote.

If passed, this law specifically exempts religious institutions from being required to perform gay weddings. Your church and your religious beliefs remain unharmed by us having rights. Sandi and I getting married shouldn’t affect you at all, and we promise not to invite you to our wedding.

I see no on 1 signs, and I am overcome with anguish that the people inside those houses or driving those cars think they have more of a place in society than I do. And, truthfully, a little outrage seems well placed when my rights are on the line. Have you ever had a statewide vote on some deeply personal aspect of your life? If you haven’t, let me tell you how utterly painful it is.

I realize that it is not feasible to ask people to go vote yes if they staunchly disagree with gay marriage. But would you consider abstaining? If it doesn’t affect you — if your church won’t be required to participate – why even participate in the vote? Can you honestly feel good about casting a vote to withhold rights from a marginalized section of society? Does voting no to my marriage rights make your marriage, your life, more secure? I can assure you, my love is no threat to you.

There is a family we have known for a long time. They love us, and we love them, but gay rights is not an issue on which we always see eye to eye. Over the years we have had many heartfelt, and painful, discussions about the intersection of religious doctrine and their love and understanding of our family. When same-sex marriage was on the ballot for repeal in 2009, the best truce we could find was a stalemate. Our friends were conflicted — they couldn’t vote for something that went against the teachings of their church, yet they couldn’t vote against us. Instead, they abstained from voting on the referendum.

Yet time, encouragement within their church for individual soul-searching on this issue, along with more heartbreaking conversation with us about what is at stake for our family and for our daughters has led to one of the most wonderful phone calls I’ve received: “We have changed our minds. We are voting yes on Question 1.”

I know that I’m not going to convince everyone that we should have the right to get married. But if you are going to vote no, can you please do me a favor? Can you not put a sign in your yard? I know I’m being hypocritical here because I have a yes on Question 1 sign in my yard. But, honestly, I would rather not know who is voting against us. I don’t want to feel negatively about you for evermore when I drive by your house and remember that you think my family is less than yours.

I don’t want my children to remember your house — your face in their community as someone who voted against them and their family. If you must vote against us, can you please do it quietly? Can you please take a shift in the closet where gay individuals have lived for eons and hide your intolerance from me? Can you hide it from my kids?

If you are wavering at all on the issue, please search your soul. Ponder the fact that your marriage was never put to a vote. It is a right you were born with simply because you are straight. A yes vote on Question 1 will affirm what we already know to be true: that we have an equal place in this state, in this world. It means you see us as the contributing, tax-paying members of society that we are. You, because you have the power, extend the rights that are meant for all. These rights, this equality, is immeasurable to us.

If you are straight, a no or yes vote does not change anything in your life. But it has huge ramifications for us and for our children’s understanding of our place in society. Can you vote yes for these children? They will grow up and may someday make the laws that will govern you.

Suzanne Carver lives in Hampden with Sandi, her partner of 12 years, and their two daughters.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/10/08/opinion/vote-yes-on-question-1-my-love-is-no-threat-to-you/ printed on November 29, 2014