35 thoughts on “Maine and marriage

  1. Liz Fickett

    I live in Maine and I am thoroughly disgusted, fed up, embarassed and just generally pissed off. and I have to admit, I’m a bit in shock after hearing the news last night. I cannot believe the small mindedness of the majority of voters who bothered to come out and cast their votes yesterday. blah.

  2. Jeremiah

    As a Mainer, here it is – trying to overcome the elderly vote in an old state and the religious vote in a Catholic state was just too much. Our church had a party last night that became less and less celebratory, and it eventually become me and a few friends back at my place drinking and cursing at the TV.

    But this isn’t over, not by a long shot. And the progressive faith community (of many denominations) has been building bridges here I have never seen before. At the end of the day, this sucks Mark Mutty’s sanctimonious you-know-what, but the groundwork has been laid for future successes.

    And for all the help we got from Maine leadership, we need to see some real support nationally.

  3. ogre

    Feel? Pissed off. Sad.

    After CA’s prop H8, and then ME’s prop 1… I’m afraid I see only two things to be done. The first is to keep organizing and educating like crazy. The second is to wait 4-6 years, maybe 8. During that time enough aged bigots will pass on, and enough younger voters will move into the system whose views (as a cohort) are a mirror of those sidling off this mortal coil. Figuring out how to get the young to come out and vote is the only thing that might accelerate this.

  4. Bill Baar

    I’ve never seen two sides talk past each other so badly as over SSM. UU’s have framed marriage as a “right”. For plenty of religious marriage is a sacrament involving God. For plenty of others marriage is a piece of social engineering to raise kids: an institution to be protected and strengthened.

    SSM advocates don’t engage much and just go on about “rights”. (And how many UU Ministers would perform a marriage as a “right” to a couple they professionally believe should not be married?)

    Until SSM advocates can engage opponents and get off the “rights” soap box, or worse…this “standing on the side of love” frame…. expect continued losses on this one. We simply don’t have our act together.

  5. Jeremiah

    Bill – so what exactly are you advocating for? I see what you are saying about the problem, but I am less clear about the solution. Do we approach this Washington State-style? Do we only grant religious institutions the ability to preside over marriage, and the state, civil unions? Admittedly, there may be other routes available.

  6. Bill Baar

    @Jeremiah I’d take Government out of the marriage licensing business. Coping with all the varieties of modern family life is beyond the Government’s competence these days. The Government no longer should have a role in licensing marriage, and any benefits conferred on the basis of a Marriage should be revised and linked solely to individiuals.

    I’d put UU’s to work on a theology of family life and just what exactly we mean by marriage. What exactly we do when our clergy agree to marry a couple.

    I’m old enough to remember when it wasn’t unusual to hear UU’s go on quoting Emma Goldman about marriage being a kind of bondage of women. Now I hear UU’s go on about marriage as a right. We’ve got plenty of work sorting out how we’ve traveled that path over the years.

    I would junk the sloganeering we’ve adopted instead of the hard work of defining just what marriage should be in an age headed for autonomy and singleness. When people can expect to cycle through a number of families in their lifetime.

  7. Victor

    It’s crap – pure and simple.

    It has NOTHING to do with people upholding the sanctity of marriage (attenton Bill Baer @6 “a sacrement involving God”). It has EVERYTHING to do with asserting one group’s power over another. The same narrow-minded bigots who voted to repeal SSM would vote to repeal interracial marriage today if given the opportunity.

    This country sucks because it’s loaded with a lot of really stupid, bigoted people. And UUs aren’t much help. The UUA does a lot on marriage equality, but at the congregational level, I find most congregations (at least those I’ve attended) “Stand on the Side of Apathy” when it comes to SSM.

    When compared to the engagement of UUs in the civil rights battles of the ’60’s, the tepid response of most UUs to the most divisive civil rights issue in this nation today is embarrassing.

  8. Jean

    As a non-gay woman who has been married — twice, but that’s another story — I would weigh in on marriage being bondage for women. Indeed it can be. Just as much as it can be for men. Is marriage a “right”? I have no idea. Is marriage a useful institution financially? It can be. It can also be useful if your partner is ill and you need or want to make important life decisions. Marriage helps with health insurance, and other benefits one partner may be able to obtain for the other.

    Then, there’s this question, which I really would like answered by *both* sides: why does marriage still exist? I’m sure some religious conservatives will say that it is a sacrament, a religious union in the eyes of god, or whatever the language is. That’s nice, have at it. But if that’s the case, why on earth is the government getting involved? Because, there’s the other aspect of marriage: money, taxes, benefits, property. That stuff of bondage.

    So perhaps there are three definitions or possibilities for marriage: A god-blessed union based on Religion. A god-free or god-blessed, depending on your point of view, union based on Love. A god-forsaken union based on Money.

    If that’s so, the vote seems to be about Religion and Money. Is this what UUs want? I understand the financial gain (taxes, etc.) in marriage, and the social approbation (public validation). If that’s the driving force, work on changing the tax laws. Work on having marriage celebrations and calling it marriage and being public about it.

    I get it that being gay and not being allowed to marry is ridiculous and wrong and meanspirited. I get that. But I also know that the institution of marriage is not so fabulous. Not at all.

  9. Bill Baar

    “….why does marriage still exist?”

    Good question. Ever here a UU tell us lately other than marriage is a right? Closest I’ve heard was Doug Muder’s we have better divorce stats than Evangelicals and somehow I found Muder’s case lacking. Not exactly the frame I’d want to push the public about UUism.

    Considering the vast numbers opting agianst it, and the vast number of single moms raising kids alone, it makes our marriage-equality frame seem absurd. One reason or another a whole lot of people opting out if it and there’s powerful consequences from it.

  10. Dan

    Bill @ 12 — You write: “Ever hear a UU tell us lately other than marriage is a right?”

    Umm, Bill, you know perfectly well that I am a Unitarian Universalist who does not say that marriage is a right. We’ve had this conversation in comments to other posts.

    Jean @ 11 — Yeah, marriage needs rethinking.

    While studies have clearly demonstrated that men who marry live longer, there is conflicting evidence about whether women who marry live longer; from my reading, I’d be willing to bet that women show no gain in lifespan from marriage. So it seems that men benefit more from marriage? What about same sex couples — do gay married me live longer than lesbian married women?

    Legally, marriage gives couples many, many advantages. Some of those advantages seem kind of sketchy. Why can’t married couples testify against each other in court? Why do married couples get all kinds of economic benefits not open to non-married couples? Why do some married couples pay more in income tax than singles, and some married couples pay less? Legally, marriage does not make sense any more. I’d like to say that marriage should exist for the sake of any kids that a couple wants to have — but then I’d have to say that a marriage contract could not be dissolved while the kids are still legal minors, although it could be renegotiated (which is basically the way divorce works — if you have kids and get divorced, the courts are going to be part of your life until the kids reach 18). We need to really rethink the marriage contract.

    Religiously, it seems clear to me that marriage should be governed by whatever religious community you belong to. If you’re a Catholic, you consider marriage a sacrament that can only occur between a man and a woman; that’s fine with me. In my tradition, marriage is a covenant between two people of whatever, and you don’t have to get married to be in a committed relationship; and that should be fine with Catholics. And for the many people who are unchurched, they shouldn’t have to deal with a religious marriage at all.

    And let’s face it, for much of the population, marriage is a folk tradition that has nothing to do with law or religion — it’s an excuse for a party. The typical wedding that I do has a religious ceremony that lasts maybe twenty minutes, and one to three days of other celebrations and rituals that have nothing to do with organized religion. The folk tradition of marriage is (to my mind) the most conservative, the most restrictive towards women, the least humane, the most corrupted by consumerism. Folk traditions being what they are, you can’t get reform them.

    I actually now see same-sex marriage as a possible path towards reforming marriage. Let’s divorce marriage from gender stereotypes (yes, pun intended). Let’s open up a debate about what should be included in the legal contract that is marriage. Let’s question the extent to which we want government involved in marriage. Let’s talk openly about how we can get consumerism out of marriage OK, that last one is totally impossible.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I should state that while I have been in a stable relationship for the past 20 years, I have never been married.

  11. Bill Baar


    Sorry, forgot….

    With regard to the Catholics and this… “and that should be fine with Catholics.” It’s not “fine” with Catholics. A marriage outside the Church is not a real marriage. There is nothing there to be “fine” with. There is not marriage in the Church’s eyes.

    Regarding… “Religiously, it seems clear to me that marriage should be governed by whatever religious community you belong to. ”

    My wife’s coworker was just married in an arranged marriage to a guy she barely knew. She’s Hindu by the way and he’s some variant of Christian. My wife appalled at how subservient she seemed. So, can we judge this? Can we as UU’s make a judgement that this is not the best way for women to live?

    If I recall the UN’s declaration of Human Rights, there is no Right to Marriage, but there is a Right not to be forced into one.

  12. MadGastronomer

    Why can’t married couples testify against each other in court?

    IIRC, they can testify against each other if they want to, they just can’t be required to testify against each other.

  13. Jeremiah

    Victor @10 – our congregation in Auburn, Maine has been VERY vocal, and has been the central church in Central Maine for other progressives to rally to. The result is that we’ve become closer to other liberal faith traditions, and are starting a multi-faith youth group this month. We had a major inter-denominational service, hosted phone banks, got the press to get the word out, and so on and so forth. It’s brought the church together, and new members coming in the door who want to be part of it.

    Now, the nature of marriage is another question. It is an OPTION. But one denied to many.

  14. Amy

    Is marriage a right? Well, I agree that that may not be quite the way to put it–as if it belongs on the United Nations’ list. To look at the question as a matter of civil rights in the US, let me ask this: is shopping in your local drugstore a right? Is joining your block association a right? Is being visited in the hospital by the most important person in your life a right?

    And the answer is: I don’t know, but I know that if anyone is allowed to do it, everyone must be. Anyone the state wishes to exclude from these privileges and protections, it better have a damn good reason to exclude. As one of the excluded, I find the intellectual analyses a little cold-blooded.

    Right now, we grant all sorts of privileges to people who sign that piece of paper, from the mostly-just-convenient (change your name without a court order, rent videos on each other’s accounts) to the seriously life-affecting (collect each other’s Social Security, take charge of each other’s bodies after death). Those privileges are reserved, for no valid reason, for people who aren’t of the same sex, and that’s what campaigns like No on 1 and No on 8 are properly about. Not anything churches are up to.

    Bill, I share some of your frustration, but damn it all, we frame marriage as a right because it’s the language that applies to civil life. It might not move hearts and minds very well–I think No on 1 Maine’s ads about leaving each other the hell alone had a better shot at that–but surely you can see why we’re not waiting around for our attempts to change those hearts to work their magic. They didn’t change before people were allowed to marry across “racial” lines. They changed afterwards–or they didn’t, but at least the people who wanted to marry didn’t have to wait for them. Right now, I have to wait. This pisses me off.

    As for what marriage ought to be, spiritually, emotionally, in terms of life commitment, that is indeed a profound and important conversation, one for any religious community to be having–and one that has to be held alongside, not instead of, this question of when the hell we’re going to have equal protection under the law.

    Um. I think I hijacked your blog, Dan. Sorry ’bout that.

  15. Dan

    Thank you to everyone who is contributing to this discussion. Good points coming out all the way around. (And notice how many good writers there are in the YAUU Commentariat?)

    If you’re late to this discussion and just want to post your emotional reaction to yesterday’s vote in Maine, don’t feel you have get involved in the above discussion.

  16. Victor

    Jeremiah @16. It’s really great to hear about the impact the vote in Maine has had on your church, and it’s a story worth telling because I feel that it might inspire other congregations who have not been as proactive. Might I suggest you submit a Press Release or article to UU World about your church’s experience, if that hasn’t already taken place?

    SSM is fist and foremost a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE. It’s not about redefining marriage (that’s not likely to happen), or the “theology of marriage.” It’s about having the same f***ing civil rights as straight married couples. Period. I’m 63 and my male partner of 25+years is 74. When one of us dies, our income will be slashed in half. If we were a heterosexual couple, that wouldn’t happen. Both our Social Security income and pensions would continue to be paid.

  17. Bill Baar

    “Bill, I share some of your frustration, but damn it all, we frame marriage as a right because it’s the language that applies to civil life.”

    Yes, right, and that we’ve framed so many issues as “rights” is not a good thing.

    There are plenty of conflicts and to argue them in terms of “rights” is not particularly helpful. It’s a real problem Liberalism’s fallen into. The pragmatic case is not argued because the liberal case is a “right”. Your against my “rights”, well, you’re a so and so….

  18. Jeremiah

    Victor – that’s a great idea! I’ll email our minister (who rocks, by the way – we need more young dynamic ministers with families in the UUA) about that.

  19. Amy

    Victor, not to nitpick, since the Social Security disparity drives me up a wall too, but this isn’t correct: “If we were a heterosexual couple . . . both our Social Security income and pensions would continue to be paid.” If you’re married in the eyes of the feds, and your spouse dies, you can receive either your spouse’s Social Security pension or (if you’re retired) your own, opting for whichever is the higher payment. You don’t collect both.

    So yes, same-sex couples do get screwed, but not to the extent that you’re describing. Just want to make sure we get the right arguments out there. Correct me if I have it wrong–I don’t know a lot about survivor benefits, being farther from retirement than you are. (Still close enough to be angry every time I pay my FICA and think, “If I die before my wife, she isn’t going to see a penny of this.”)

  20. Victor

    Amy, you’ve accurately described how social security payments would be handled. Thanks for clarifying.

    My pension income, however, is different. When I retired, I opted to receive a lesser amount so that my partner would be covered in the event that I died before he does. But that’s only good for 10 years. After that period ends, he’s not entitled to anything If we were a married heterosexual couple, he would continue to receive my pension income until his death.

    So, there’s some discrepancy in Social Security and a greater discrepancy in my pension. Although the company I worked for has started to provide some SS partner benefits (after I retired), the pension plan hasn’t changed, and probably won’t.

    Doesn’t seem quite fair….does it?

    The problem with the SSM marriage issue is that everyone wants to talk about the institution of marriage, but no one really wants to discuss the real impact to SS partners (and their children) when it comes to disparity in income, transfer of property, survivor benefits and access to hospitals and health information , etc. Those topics aren’t as sexy as talking about marriage.

  21. Jean

    Victor – You write: “The problem with the SSM marriage issue is that everyone wants to talk about the institution of marriage, but no one really wants to discuss the real impact to SS partners (and their children) when it comes to disparity in income, transfer of property, survivor benefits and access to hospitals and health information , etc. Those topics aren’t as sexy as talking about marriage.”

    What then, if we separated the two issues? The place I work for has SS partner benefits, equal to married heterosexual benefits (MH?). More companies are doing this, more should, more will. But guess what: if I live with my “boy”friend (I’m a girl) he can’t get these. I have to marry him. So, once again, not fair.

    The real issue, for me, is providing access, benefits, transfer of property, etc etc as individuals see fit. I frankly don’t think marriage should be yoked to this. The non-sexy things should be dealt with separate from marriage. Marriage should be about something completely different — love, perhaps? Gasp. Oh, wait. That’s probably why I’m not married anymore.

    At any rate — no, the system isn’t fair. Not to SS couples, not to NMH (non married heterosexual) couples, not to MAD (middle aged divorced) women. I just can’t see that trying to make marriage the answer will make a damn bit of difference.

  22. Bill Baar

    Back in the 90s, Oak Park, Illinois created a civil registry for same sex couples to sign. If the one of the people signing was a Village employee, the registration entitled their partner to health and other benefits from the Village plan.

    One Village employee tried to sign declaring her disabled mom as partner. The whole registry seemed largely symbolic but this one employee and her mom was the one couple who would have really benefited.

    Oak Park turned her down. The liberal argument was they should for Universal Health Insurance. The civil registry wasn’t intended to help them.

    That case has stuck with me and convinced me benefits need to attach to individuals and not to ones place in some family constellation because traditional families –for better or worse– simply don’t exist much.

    That are just way too many single moms out there, and singles through divorce and survivorship, and singles through choice… Evangelicals get this change in families and while they may decry the change, they organize and minister to the reality.

    I don’t think UU’s do as much. We go on and on with a frame about equality and justice and the vast majority of Gays want nothing to do with us, we ignore the single and especially single mother, and it’s just the comfortable couples at UU Churches.

    A bit sweeping maybe, but am I all that wrong?

  23. Joy Lightning

    In Broward County we have a really good ordinance for Human rights. If you want to you can sign to be a civil partner if you are two different human beings period. Ironically we have a large radical right contingent here is the bluest county in Florida (except maybe Gainesville) Our ordinance was written by Dean Trantallis who has run for several offices locally unsuccessfully. I think he’s brilliant… I vote for him each time.

    Maine is a tragedy, we had a similar effort here a few years back. Maybe we just have to wait for the bigots to die.

    I love the idea of rethinking marriage for everyone. I guess promising forever is a bit like getting a Tattoo, you might end up hating it after a while. Many of the laws protecting children and families don’t work perfectly. It seems to me the Universal Health Care would solve some problems. If we could take away all economic reasons to marry and leave only love and companionship on the table, I think it might be better for families…

    I think it’s sweet when people live long lives in love together. It does happen. I wouldn’t want anything to prevent that from being possible regardless of their gender, race, ableness or any other thing from the long list of things that shouldn’t matter.


  24. Jeremiah

    Bill @24:

    “I don’t think UU’s do as much. We go on and on with a frame about equality and justice and the vast majority of Gays want nothing to do with us, we ignore the single and especially single mother, and it’s just the comfortable couples at UU Churches.”

    I’d love to disagree, but I can’t. How many leading churches in the inner city with soup kitchens are UU? Of these, how many provide shelter or financial assistance?

    I am MORE than willing to assist in the provision of a marriage option for SS couples. I certainly did this year in Maine. That being said. there is so much insidiousness that affects potentially even broader spectrums of the population. Many of us get called “that gay church.” And really, at the end of the day, “Welcoming Congregations” are gay-friendly, not necessarily poor-friendly. (And yes, I realize full well that both is possible in the same family.)

    Or is this an incorrect perspective?

  25. Victor

    Jean@23. It would be great if we could separate some of the benefits of marriage from the religious rite of marriage (which I think is what you’re suggesting). The problem is that each State in the country has different laws regarding marriage. Marriage is not defined by the Federal Government (except that the Defense of Marriage act states that Florida, for example, is not required to recognize the SSM marriage of a couple married in Mass.) Even if DOMA is repealed, many States have passed Constitutional Amendments prohibiting SSM, and then it becomes a “State’s rights” issue.

    So, it’s unlikely that the non-sexy benefits of marriage will be “un-yoked” from the religious ceremony of marriage in all 50 States. Not that easy. And, for most people, the religious ceremony of marriage is only what they think about, not the benefits that come with it.

    In France, you have to get married in City Hall for the marriage to be legal before being married in a church. But that happened because the French abolished the church during the French Revolution. It’s not likely to happen in the USA, as the USA is a God-fearing and self-righteous nation. Marriage, and the benefits of marriage that come with it, are not likely to change.

    Jeremiah@26: While I agree with you, that there are many social justice issues where UUs don’t necessarily practice what they preach, the issue of SSM should be important to all UUs because of the religious aspect. The religious right has defined marriage a certain way. We UUs define it differently. So, what’s at stake is not only SSM. It’s setting the moral tone of this nation. And we UUs are losing in BIG WAY to the Catholics and the Mormons. As Dear Abby used to state: (UUs) need to wake up and smell the coffee. But, I don’t think UUs are likely to change. Given the discourse on this blog concerning SSM, you can see what the problem is – every UU has an opinion which they are eager to express, and we’re not united as a group.

    The Catholics and the Mormons poured thousands of dollars into fighting SSM in California and Maine. The so-called National Organization for Marriage spent millions on this topic. What has been the the response of religious liberals? Even though individual churches like yours have rallied, the overall response among religious liberals has been tepid by comparison.

    How many heterosexual UUs have contributed financially or otherwise to opposing the obstacles to SSM? I’d guess that very few have donated either time or money. And the GLBT community cannot do this on their own. We’re too small a segment of the overall population.

    Lastly, as an American I feel threatened by the bigotry that surrounds this issue. Being relegated to second-class citizenship is not something I would wish on anyone.

  26. Jeremiah

    Victor@27: I’ve done both time and money, as has much of my church. Ya gotta realize, in a conservative Catholic area like our church is in, we’re a haven for those cast out of other faith traditions. And we have individuals from the GLBTQ community with other needs, such as mental health and financial matters. We also host Outright, a community of GLBTQ teens who meet weekly to talk about issues they face every day.

    In fact, I recently found out that a past minister brought our old Universalist congregation back from the brink of death by going to gay bars and inviting people to church. Not a typical UU approach!

    At the end of the day (and I wish that would come sooner!) I’m just saying a broad message is important. And it should definitely include a different moral understanding than the standing Vatican-based self-loathing that tends to be the norm around me.

  27. Dan

    Dear all — This is one of the most interesting conversations on marriage I’ve seen in quite a while. Wow. Lots to think about.

  28. kim

    There remains the fact that to most of us, being married feels different from just living together.
    Many people feel that if you question any part of something, then the whole thing is invalidated — think of all the people who believe if any part of the bible were proven false, then all of it would be in doubt. People who really are attached to tradition feel that if you change marriage, it destroys it. Yes, really. It’s a different world-view than for those of us who believe we can pick and choose the parts of a system we agree are true.
    I suppose we should have come up with some arguments about how expanding marriage will strengthen it to try to speak to that world-view.

  29. Ted

    Homosexual people who want to get married should be careful what they wish for. The Legal system has the right and the responsibility to resolve the the unresolvable in contentious divorces. It too often comes up with unacceptable results.

    Getting the government out of the marriage business has its problems too. Then you’d have private entities qualifying people for governmental privileges. Married people have well over 1000 legal rights that singles don’t.

    The case in Texas where a cult leader was convicted of child abuse for marrying 12 year old girls would have not been a case at all if marriage were made strictly a religious matter.

    As for getting the marriage privileges out of the law, forget it. There are still state laws on the books governing horses and buggies.

  30. Jean

    Ah, horses and buggies. We have those out here (Amish) and believe me, we need state laws to govern them. Seriously. Amish kids go buggy joyriding (with beer) and the consequences are not pretty.

    Victor @29: I’m struck by the phrase “second class citizen” — in that, you have my solidarity. As women, straight or gay, we are still there. Economically, socially, politically — pick a category. I will submit, however, that marriage has been too long part of *keeping* women in second class status. Yes, I hear all the other arguments for benefits, access, etc. Still. See marriage in its entirety for what it is and has been. And that may explain the tepid response from liberals. Like, for example, me.

    It is that, my general antipathy toward the M in SSM and all its freight and symbolism, not in any part the SS, that stops me, and perhaps many more like me from being more involved. Still: as person to person, as I hear the frustration explicated, with passion and articulation, I am moved to say that clearly I’m missing the point. So, point taken.

    Still, tragic irony held on to (here anyway).

  31. Victor

    I was taught that “freedom, liberty and justice for all” aren’t merely words to recite. This nation has been headed down the path of Gay Apartheid for the past 15-20 years. The GLBT community has had it trying to “explain” the problem, and I’m really not willing to engage in this discussion any more. The next step will likely be civil disobedience. Maybe then UUs who are on the sidelines will get the point?

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