Editors' Note: Guest blogger Ellsworth Rundlett III is a past president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association and has served on the Board of Governors of the Maine State Bar Association. He and his daughter, Nicole Rundlett, are collaborating on a memoir about Nicole's gender transition.
On November 6, 2012, the people of Maine committed an historical act: they voted for the freedom to marry for same sex couples.
As a Mainer who was born, raised and schooled here, I was overjoyed that my state could make front page news with such a positive vote.
As a father, I began to consider all the possible spots where my daughter and her partner could be married.
Of course, I considered Maine's most iconic lighthouse, Portland Headlight. I also thought about a beautiful beach near the lake where I swam as a child. Finally, my imagination settled on the island of Frenchboro, where my mother and grandmother were born. I have been bringing my daughter Nicki there since she was eight years old. For nearly 40 years, we have been hiking, swimming and climbing in this wild and wonderful Maine landscape. What better place to consecrate the next chapter in our family history?
I am an attorney, licensed by law to perform civil marriage ceremonies in my state. In the course of my career I have performed a couple dozen marriages for heterosexual couples. Some of those marriages succeeded, others failed. (I made it a principle never to represent one of the parties in a divorce when I had performed the marriage ceremony--unless the divorce was 100% amicable and cooperative.)
I hope I will have the honor of presiding over a ceremony for Nicki and her partner, Ar. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to perform other weddings for same-sex couples. At this stage in my career, it will be a privilege.
There were times when I doubted that freedom to marry would come to Maine in my own lifetime. Then, in 2009, our legislature passed a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry. The bill was signed into law by former Governor John Baldacci, but opponents secured the right to a referendum on the issue, and the law was nullified.
It was a hard-fought campaign. Opponents issued sensational television ads that predicted same-sex marriage would be taught in schools. Some churches urged their parishioners to vote against the law and to contribute to the opponents' campaign coffers.
The tactic worked, but in later news articles many of the shenanigans of the opponents were exposed. The proponents of marriage equality continued their fight, as well as their campaign, and in 2012 the issue was reinstated on the ballot.
Once again television ads urged the public to vote against equality. This time they predicted that people would be sued, or fired from their jobs, if they spoke out or acted against same-sex marriage. They spoke of the subject being taught in schools, again, and paid a ton of money to fight this issue. A worker in our office had his "Vote Yes" sign removed from his lawn, twice, which prompted a police investigation. (A sting photo of the person removing the sign in the dead of the night from my friend's property got posted on the town police web site.)
Last Tuesday, as the returns poured in from all over the state, supporters celebrated at the same hotel conference room where, just three years before, they had left in defeat and sorrow.
To those proponents of Question 1, I must express my deepest gratitude as a Mainer and a father. To the opponents, I must say that I respect your thoughts and your position. However, continuing the fight, at least here in Maine, is like spitting against the proverbial tide.