Forgive me, but I am still a little distracted by this whole marriage equality thing. The bill passed the Maine State Senate by a 21-14 vote on Thursday. That's a 3-2 margin. Not a squeaker. Supporters numbered half again as many as opponents. That's pretty impressive.
The bill goes to House of Representatives on Tuesday, where it is said to have solid support.
This is amazing.
In 1988, when I came out and began to get active in queer stuff in Maine, it was still legal to fire, evict, deny credit and deny accommodations to gay men and lesbians in Maine. Hate crimes were largely unreported because to do so would mean to admit that you were gay, putting job and livelihood in peril. We were fighting then for an anti-discrimination law, and it was a nasty, uphill fight. Marriage was so far away as to not even be on the map. Not in my lifetime, perhaps in the next generation we might see such a thing, I thought. Back then, we just wanted to not get killed in the street. We just wanted someone to help our brothers who were dying by the thousands. Marriage? That was a decadent dessert to people who were starving for rice.
Ten years ago, we still did not have legal protections. Every other state in New England offered protection from discrimination for sexual minorities, but not Maine. Vermont was even working on domestic partnership. But they were a bunch of freaky hippies, we said. There's no accounting for Vermont. They do what they want there.
But now here we are in Maine in 2009. We have legal protection from discrimination, finally. We have a domestic partnership law, yes, but it is offensive to me and many others. In order to register to receive half-ration benefits, we have to file paperwork with the Department of Health. The Department of Health??? Why not Vital Statistics, where straight marriages are registered? Ooooh, that's right. We're different. Separate. Equal? My ass! We have to register with the Department of Health. People with communicable diseases have to register with the Department of Health. That is patently offensive, thank you very much.
So now we are less than 100 hours away from a historic vote of the Maine Legislature. Marriage equality might be a reality not just within my lifetime, but within this year. Wow.
If the House passes this bill on Tuesday, it goes on to the Governor for his signature. With a 3-2 margin in the Senate, and something similar (hopefully) in the House, it would make good sense for him to support a bill that comes through with solid support in both houses. The legislature is scheduled to end its session on June 17. New laws take effect 90 days after the end of the session. That means by mid-September, we could be married.
Don't think I'm gonna wear no dress. Just get that thought out of your head right now.
Wow. This is a real possibility. Something has shifted in America. We have our first African American president. Being smart is cool again. Being a stupid redneck is un-cool again. People want to feel proud about ethics again. People want to be the good guys, not the bully. We are beginning to search for and find the greater part of ourselves, that part of us that takes the high road.
History is coming. This chapter WILL be written. Dear god, let us all live long enough to see it be a reality.