An editorial on marriage in the Portland Press Herald laid out in the clearest language possible why the debate around relationship recognition should about marriage and not just the collection of rights and responsibilities accessed through marriage.
A domestic partnership law is the wrong place to start the discussion. Those who object to the state applying family law norms to same-sex relationships see it as a way to sneak gay marriage into the law books.
Those who support same-sex marriage view it as a less-than-equal legal status that does not carry one of the most important benefits of marriage - its universal recognition.
In a school, hospital or courthouse, everyone understands the family relationship of marriage and the rights that go with it. A new institution with an unfamiliar name would not have the same weight.
We support full marriage rights for same-sex couples because we believe they are entitled to equal protection under the law. Marriage is the best building block for stable, supportive families, and families led by same-sex couples should have same legal rights and obligations as those led by heterosexual couples.
That editorial appeared on January 25, 2009 two weeks after Equality Maine and its partners in the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition unveiled a bill that would extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples in Maine. To counteract efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, Republican State Rep. Les Fossel has proposed a domestic partnership bill that he is holding up as a "compromise."
As we have learned again and again in places like California, Connecticut (before marriage was legalized) and New Jersey, creating separate structures like domestic partnerships and civil unions for the recognition of same-sex relationships does not work. By virtue of their being separate categories, they are inherently unequal. And, in their daily lives same-sex couples have experienced the shortcomings of being relegated to separate and unequal legal structures.
Pursuing domestic partnerships legislation is only a pragmatic tactic in places where it clear that marriage will not become a reality anytime soon and only as part of a pragmatic and multi-pronged strategy to provide real benefits for LGBT families while moving towards the goal of marriage equality.
Maine is one of the few places in the country where we can win and keep marriage equality. It is in no way going to be easy and our brothers and sisters in Maine will need the help of all of us in this fight.
This is a fight that can be won. Make a contribution to support the marriage work of Equality Maine now.