Mainers United Issue Information to Correct Opponents’ Deliberate Lies About Existing State Laws
(The briefing memo is below, shared in its entirety. The title is mine alone. ~AP)
Opponents of allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license have begun an effort to create confusion about current Maine law, domestic partnerships and civil unions.
In op-eds placed in daily newspapers around the state, opponents of marriage have incorrectly claimed that “same-sex couples have been able to join together in legal matrimony in Maine for eight years with the same rights and benefits of everyone else.”
This information is false.
Additionally, there has been an effort to confuse domestic partnerships with civil unions. Maine does not allow civil unions, nor does the state allow same-sex couples to obtain a marriage license.
Instead, Maine has a limited “Domestic Partnership Registry” that grants certain eligible couples a small handful of legal rights in terms of probate, guardianships, conservatorships, inheritance and protection from abuse.
“Parents don’t dream of the day that their children will enter into a binding legal contract or have their domestic partnership papers filed. They dream of the day their children will marry the person they love and begin a life together, with all of the responsibilities and joys that come with marriage. Loving, committed couples don’t hope for the day they will be protected in probate court,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “In form and function, domestic partnerships do not have the same meaning or protections that come with civil marriage.”
Apart from legal rights, marriage carries profound personal meaning, for the couples and for others who instantly grasp its significance. Because it is understood by all, the word “marriage” is itself is a protection.
From the Department of Health and Human Services domestic partnership registry website: “Effective July 30, 2004, Public Law 672 regarding Domestic Partner Registration will allow individuals who have been legally domiciled together in this state, for at least 12 months, to submit a notarized registration form (Declaration of Domestic Partnership) to the Maine CDC vital records office to have their partnership legally registered. The Domestic Partner Registration allows individuals to have rights of inheritance (as specified in Title 18-A M.R.S.A.) as well as the right to make decisions regarding the disposal of their deceased partners remains (Title 22 M.R.S.A. §2843-A).”
“Does that sound at all like a marriage,” McTighe said. “Marriage matters to thousands of Maine families. Marriage is the strongest and most stabilizing bond the state can confer on any couple, and it’s something that should be encouraged, not discouraged. Domestic partnerships are no substitute for allowing all loving, committed couples to marry.”
Opponents of marriage around the country have outlined a strategy that Mainers will recognize from 2009, the only other time the issue of allowing same-sex couples to marry has been voted on in Maine.
Opponents falsely claim – as the referenced op-ed above makes clear – that same-sex couples already enjoy the legal rights of marriage.
And Mainers United expects, in the closing days of the campaign, to see a television ad similar to the one aired in 2009, which says: “We want to be tolerant of gays. Maine’s domestic partnership laws provide substantial protections for gay couples. Any problems remaining can be addressed without dismantling traditional marriage. It’s possible to support civil rights of all citizens and protect traditional marriage at the same time.”
The goal of the advertisement is to create a false equivalence between two things that are not alike.
Alternatives to marriage also fail as a matter of principle. Other states that have passed domestic partnerships or civil unions have found that they just don’t work and can be harmful.
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts high court rejected an attempt by some to substitute civil unions after its landmark marriage ruling in 2003. The Court said in an Opinion to the Justices of the Senate that the differences “between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’” [were] “not innocuous; [but]… a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex … couples to second-class status. … The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.”
New Jersey: After New Jersey enacted civil unions, in 2008, an independent Civil Union Review Commission issued a unanimous report to the Governor and Legislature with urgent findings, calling the negative effects of civil unions “striking”: “In a number of cases, the negative effect of the Civil Union Act on the physical and mental health of same-sex couples and their children is striking.”
The Commission found that “children would benefit by society’s recognition that their parents are married” and called for the state to amend the civil union law “without delay” to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The Commission also wrote in its final report: “Even if, given enough time, civil unions are understood to provide rights and responsibilities equivalent to those provided in marriage, they send a message to the public: same-sex couples are not equal to opposite-sex married couples in the eyes of the law, that they are ‘not good enough’ to warrant true equality. This is the same message that racial segregation laws wrongfully sent. Separate treatment was wrong then and it is just as wrong now.”
Vermont: A commission in Vermont drew similar conclusions in 2008, nearly a decade after it passed its civil union law. Vermonters with civil unions testified saying that there are “deficits in the civil union law, with clear and negative financial, economic, and social impacts on their lives and the lives of their children and families.”
The court explained in its opinion: “Despite the truly laudable effort of the legislature in equalizing the legal rights afforded same sex and opposite sex couples, there is no doubt that civil unions enjoy a lesser status in our society than marriage.”
Mainers United for Marriage is the coalition to win marriage for all Maine families. A “Yes” vote on Question 1 in November will allow marriage licenses for loving, committed same-sex couples in Maine while also protecting religious freedom.
For more information about the campaign, visit www.mainersunited.org.