Why I Am Voting No On 1

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Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” – Abraham Lincoln

Because I believe in those words. As does Maine native, World War II veteran and self-described lifelong Republican Philip Spooner, above.

If you believe in Lincoln’s proposition, that transcendent idea that we are each of us created equal, I do not believe that you can in good conscience vote yes on Question 1. Question 1, of course, being the ballot referendum here in Maine which seeks to reject the right for same-sex couples to marry.

Stripped of the fearmongering, the issue before us is not complicated: should a citizen of this state be denied a basic human right because of the way that they were born?

This is not about schools, in spite of what the Yes On 1 campaign would have you believe. The Maine Attorney General studied the question at the request of educators, and replied: “Our answer frankly is ‘no,’ there is no impact on the curricula of Maine’s public schools.”

Even if it was about the schools, I’m not sure I see how Proposition 1 represents a solution. Denying same-sex couples the right to marry does not remove them from the state. Children in cities and towns all over Maine are far more resilient and perceptive than we give them credit for, and more importantly are already aware that some households have two moms or two dads. Permitting these couples to marry will improve their lives with no material impact on the lives of children whatsoever.

Nor is this a question about imposing values on religious communities, or the threat of a flood of litigation. As the Portland Press Herald observed,

“Arguments that same-sex marriage would inhibit religious freedom or cause a flood of lawsuits also fall flat. The same claims were made in campaigns against Maine’s anti-discrimination laws and neither of them came true. Maine has strong exemptions for religious organizations in its employment and housing laws, and the marriage law would not require anyone to preside over a ceremony in violation of his or her religious beliefs.

Last year, only 32 out of 1,394 civil rights complaints to the Maine Human Rights commission were based on sexual orientation, and few, if any of them, are ever likely to end up in court. The marriage statute would not provide any new grounds for lawsuits.”

When you remove those arguments – as you must if you are committed to rational discourse – what remains? Nothing, except for your own personal or religious objections.

Which you are entitled to. What you are not entitled to, in this country, is the right to impose those beliefs on others. The Declaration of Independence speaks of “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” For many, happiness lies in the institution of marriage. Just as the Supreme Court of the United States once ruled “that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” so may we conclude that civil unions, the alternative favored by some same-sex marriage opponents, can never be a reasonable substitute.

You don’t have to like it, and you do not have to approve. All that is required is that you respect the rights promised to them, as you would expect them to respect yours.

We have, sadly, not always lived up to the promise of our forefathers. It took us 191 years to guarantee people the right to marry irrespective of the color skin they were born with. It is my sincere hope that we don’t deny committed couples the right to marry for another 191 years based on the sexual preference they were born with.

I am fortunate that the law says that I may marry the person that I love. I cannot imagine what I would do if it said otherwise. Please. If you are registered here in Maine and you believe in the rights that make this country worth dying for, vote No On 1.


  1. wise words, stephen. we have discussed these issues in private before, but its good to see you take a public stand on an important point of principle. i certainly subscribe to your position.

    marriage is a great blessing, a wonderful sticky glue that binds, a place of richness and contentment: the idea of withholding that stability from others is anathema to me.

    i am not sure i am as clear on nature vs. nurture as you are, but i believe the point stands either way.

  2. in other news- the dude in the video – coolest guy on the planet, or what.

  3. […] O’Grady ‘97 writes a heartfelt essay on why he’s voting No on 1 in Maine, which concludes thusly (read the whole thing): We have, […]

  4. @James Governor: indeed. i have always tried hard not to use this space to preach, or proselytize, but this – to me – is a question of doing the right thing.

    and yeah, Phillip Spooner is one to respect.

  5. Wonderfully put. You make both your mother and I very proud. This is something to stand up for whatever your orientation. Your Grandmother and Grandfather are smiling down on you< its what they preached their entire lives.

  6. Hi Stephen,

    Re: “Stripped of the fearmongering, the issue before us is not complicated: should a citizen of this state be denied a basic human right because of the way that they were born?”

    While I agree with you on same-sex marriage, I don’t think it serves the argument well to frame marriage as “a basic human right” – there’s no right to marry written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and civil marriage is mostly an administrative thing.

    That administrative thing certainly leads to a whole bunch of other things which are discriminatory – succession rights, parentage of adopted or surrogate children, access to adoption in the first place, the ability to have joint tax returns, and a host of other issues. But those are separate from the institution of marriage in essence, and it is possible to pass laws giving access to them without calling the union a marriage. Right now, that’s often not the case – and it’s these differences that are clearly discriminatory, and can serve as a basis for convincing people.

    In the end, marriage comes down to is symbolism. Some people believe that marriage is a sacred institution that exists to give a framework for a family – and same-sex couples can’t reproduce on their own. Others see the ability to marry as a way to say “I’m yours and you’re mine, forever”, so there’s nothing sacred, religious or family-related about it.

    If you did away with every other difference between a civil union (like the PACS in France) and marriage, all that would be left is the label. And gay couples have as much right to have access to the label as straight couples.

    Selling marriage as a fundamental human right doesn’t win any marginal votes, IMHO, because most people don’t think that marriage is a human right, they think of it either as a privilege, or as an administrative thing.


  7. its great to see right thinking flow through the ages. we tend to think of this discussion as something new, but philip spooner doesn’t, and sog senior doesn’t and evidently sog’s dad’s dad wouldn’t either. tolerance is not new.

  8. […] Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not here. Three years ago, I made an exception to that rule and publicly commented a political matter. Not because it affected me personally, but because I don’t believe it to […]

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