Gay-marriage foes launch TV campaign

PORTLAND — A high school guidance counselor whose job was targeted after he spoke out against same-sex marriage is featured in a television campaign by gay marriage opponents that launches Monday.

One of the two ads by Protect Marriage Maine features Donald Mendell of Palmyra, who was subject of a complaint with the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation after appearing on TV during a 2009 referendum in which the state's gay marriage law was repealed.

The ad says that in states where same-sex marriage has been legalized, opponents like Mendell have been "fired, sued, fined and punished."

"I was a successful school counselor in Maine for over 20 years — once nominated as teacher of the year. Yet when I supported traditional marriage, they tried to get me fired," Mendell says in the 30-second television spot.

A second ad says the rights of same-sex couples can be protected through an existing domestic registry without the need for changing the definition of marriage. "Every Mainer has a right to love whom they choose but nobody has the right to redefine marriage," it says.

With a month to go until Election Day, the television campaign marks a public escalation in debate by gay marriage opponents, who've been outspent in the campaign.

Campaign disclosure reports filed with the ethics commission on Friday indicate the Protect Marriage Maine PAC has raised a total of $415,000. Mainers United for Marriage, which is leading the drive to legalize gay marriage, has raised more than eight times more, for a total of about $3.4 million.

The ads lay out the potential ramifications as gay marriage opponents try to keep Maine from becoming the first state to enact a gay marriage law at the ballot box, said Carroll Conley from Protect Marriage Maine, which paid for the ads with help from the National Organization for Marriage.

"This is not a live-and-let-live proposition," he said. "There's no tolerance for anyone who dares to speak out against their definition of marriage. Don Mendell is the perfect example."

While the proposed law would protect clergy with a stipulation that they would not have to perform marriage ceremonies for gay couples, it doesn't protect the religious freedoms of others, Conley said.

"We think people's religious liberties go far beyond the walls of the church," he said.

But Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said Sunday that the issues raised in the Protect Marriage Maine ads have nothing to do with allowing same-sex couples to marry.

"Allowing same-sex couples to marry won't change people's freedom to speak out and say what they believe," he said. "Question 1 is about allowing our friends, co-workers and neighbors to have the freedom to marry the person they love."

Voters repealed Maine's gay marriage law in 2009, but gay marriage supporters gathered enough petitions to put it on the ballot again in the Nov. 6 election. The definition of marriage is on the ballot this fall in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

Mendell was a guidance counselor at Nokomis High School when he originally came to the public eye when he was featured in a TV ad in early October 2009, warning that gay marriage would be "pushed on Maine students" if the law remained on the books.

Two complaints were filed with the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. One of them asked for his license to be revoked because he made comments "that can endanger or promote discrimination."

"They went after my state license, claiming that supporting marriage as between one man and one woman was discriminatory," he said in the ad.

The board ruled in Mendel's favor, but he was soured by the experience. He eventually decided to resign from his job as guidance counselor.

Associated Press Writer Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., contributed to this report.

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Comments

Licia Kuenning's picture

Re: Dave Bussey

I'm not going to get into a long historical discussion of the use of the word "equal," but Dave is still confusing laws with definitions. He writes, "'equal' meant one thing before the sixty's and it means quit something else now."

No it doesn't.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Dave, I don't promise to

Dave, I don't promise to reply as often as you post a comment. It seems to be you and me going back and forth, which may not be edifying to others; and in any case before long the article we are commenting on will no longer be today's article.

But okay, you write, "What is prohibited under current Maine law and pretty much the only thing that would change, is issuance of marriage licenses to couples of the same sex."

What on earth do you need them for?

"As a consequence, what such couples are cut off from include tax benefits, property ownership arrangements, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and a whole slew of other benefits couples gain from marriage."

Utterly untrue. All you need is a law granting to domestic partners these same benefits. And this has been offered before, but it was not acceptable to the people who have turned this subject into an utterly unnecessary cause of division. You continue,

"And not incidentally, what is denied them includes the barriers such couples face in seeking the (not inconsequential) level of public respect for their commitments that cohabiting heterosexual couples can get if they decide to marry."

And you think that people who disapprove of homosexuality are going to start approving of it if the partners have a marriage license? They will not.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Re: Dave Bussey on polygamy

In my last comment I missed the fact that Dave Bussey had also posted a comment on my reply to Jason. Dave confuses differences in the laws about marriage with differences in the meaning of the word.

Polygamous marriages are marriages in the common sense of the word, as the union of a man and a woman. Polygamous men marry more than one woman. That happens to be illegal in this country, but it's important that we not confuse legality with definition. Definition has to do with the meanings of words.

I don't expect the meaning of the word "marriage" to change, but the laws about marriage can and do change from time to time and place to place.

This is why I protest every time I see someone referring to an attempt to change the definition of the word "marriage" as "legalizing" something.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Comment on Dave Bussey's comment

The Sun Journal people seem to think Dave Bussey's comment is a reply to mine, although I don't see any connection. But Dave writes,

"In the southern united states, as well as in much of the rest of the country, civil rights legislation changed the meaning of "equal rights" from "separate but equal" to "equal and equal." You think that was a bad idea?"

I don't think it happened.

It also has no relevance whatsoever to the issue we're discussing here.

Dave Bussey's picture

In response to the question

In response to the question "Why do those who oppose this measure do so?," you wrote:

"Because it is deceitful. It pretends that the English language can be changed by fiat. I happen to value the English language."

Was it "deceitful" for the the government - in both court decision s and legislation - to change the meaning the "equal protection" provisions of the U.S. Constitution in such a way that states that had long gotten away with providing so-called "separate but equal" services to non-whites could no longer get away with it.? If you weren't aware of this, "equal" meant one thing before the sixty's and it means quit something else now. Was the value you gave to the English language meaning of "equal" offended by this "change" in the meaning of "equal?"

Licia Kuenning's picture

More misstatements of the issue

Jason, it is absolutely not true that "they are not free to do what they want. They are not allowed to marry their partner." This is the nonsense propaganda that we are deluged with, but repeating it any number of times won't make it true and won't make rational people believe it.

The reason a person can't marry someone of the same sex is NOT because they aren't free and NOT because anyone won't "allow" them to do it. It is simply because that's not what the word "marriage" means. The meaning of this common word has been determined by centuries of common usage: it was not determined by the government of Maine and can't be determined by any government.

Two people of the same sex can make any kind of commitment to each other that they jointly wish to make. They can hold a ceremony if they wish to. They can make vows to each other. They can throw rice. They can call their relationship whatever they want to call it. They can even call it "marriage" if they want to, though that isn't good English. But nobody goes to jail for murdering the English language. WHO IS GOING TO PREVENT TWO PEOPLE FROM DOING ANY OF THESE THINGS? Nobody.

"Why do those who oppose this measure do so?"

Because it is deceitful. It pretends that the English language can be changed by fiat. I happen to value the English language.

"It won't change your marriage at all."

Of course it won't. Nobody ever said that it would. Jason, if you belong to an organization that is teaching its members to suggest that the objection to redefining the word "marriage" is that people think it will hurt their own marriage, your organization couldn't be more wrong in its theory about how the rest of us think. I mention this because you are the umpteenth person I have run across who makes this kind of remark, and it certainly doesn't come from our side. Please go back to whoever put this idea in your head and tell them that not only do opponents of redefining marriage not think it will hurt their own marriage, but your group makes itself look very silly every time you trot this line out.

"You seek to deny someone something that most of us consider a human right."

This is just not true. I do not seek to deny anybody any human rights. But where did you get the idea that it is a "human right" to change the meaning of an English word which is in common usage? There is no such right, and if you think about it you can see that there couldn't possibly be such a right. If everyone had a right to change the language, there would be no common language, and we couldn't communicate with one another at all.

And by the way, I don't know where you are getting your statistics when you speak of "most of us," but when this question was on the ballot in 2009 more people voted against redefining marriage than voted for it. Similarly, in every state where the people have been allowed to vote, they have voted to retain the existing definition of marriage. And I think it likely they will do so again, here in Maine.

Dave Bussey's picture

You wrote: "Two people of the

You wrote:

"Two people of the same sex can make any kind of commitment to each other that they jointly wish to make. They can hold a ceremony if they wish to. They can make vows to each other. They can throw rice. They can call their relationship whatever they want to call it. They can even call it "marriage" if they want to, though that isn't good English. But nobody goes to jail for murdering the English language. WHO IS GOING TO PREVENT TWO PEOPLE FROM DOING ANY OF THESE THINGS? Nobody."

What is prohibited under current Maine law and pretty much the only thing that would change, is issuance of marriage licenses to couples of the same sex. As a consequence, what such couples are cut off from include tax benefits, property ownership arrangements, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and a whole slew of other benefits couples gain from marriage. And not incidentally, what is denied them includes the barriers such couples face in seeking the (not inconsequential) level of public respect for their commitments that cohabiting heterosexual couples can get if they decide to marry.

Dave Bussey's picture

The meaning of this common word

What the word "marriage" meant to many in the Mormon west wasn't what you see it as meaning here and now. As you wrote, the "meaning of this common word has been determined by centuries of common usage," but but what you fail to see is that it has been determined differently from one place to another and from one time to another. Biblical laws refer to "marriage" of individual males to multiple females.

Those wit multiple wives included " . . . Gideon (Judges 8:30), Elkanah, father of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:2), and kings such as Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:21), Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:21), and Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:3). Most famously, Solomon himself had "seven hundred wives... and three hundred concubines" (2 Kings 11:3). None of these royal polygamists were chastised or punished by God for this - except for Solomon, but even here the exception proves the rule. According to the Bible, Solomon's sin was not that he married many wives, but that he married foreign wives who turned him away from worshipping Yahweh (11:4)."
http://www.daylightatheism.org/2008/09/polygamy.html

But for you it only one thing for ever and always?

Charlotte Morin's picture

Can't wait to cast my vote in support of same sex marriage...

Just waiting for my absentee ballot to arrive in the mail. Everyone should have the right to be legally MARRIED to the person they choose.

Licia Kuenning's picture

Still misstating the issue

I see that Matt McTighe is still misstating the issue that we are being asked to vote on this November. He says:

"Allowing same-sex couples to marry won't change people's freedom to speak out and say what they believe," he said. "Question 1 is about allowing our friends, co-workers and neighbors to have the freedom to marry the person they love."

No, it is not! There is no question of what anyone is "allowed" to do, and no question about anybody's freedom, on the ballot. People of whatever sexual orientation are already allowed to do anything they will be allowed to do after November 6, whichever way the vote goes. The issue is about what lawyers will call it when they do it. McTighe's party wants to change the definition of the word "marry." That's a WORD--that's not anybody's freedom.

I see that the Sun Journal has also once again misstated the issue as "legalizing" "gay marriage." There is nothing to legalize. If two people of the same sex want to live together or to make a commitment to each other, that is not illegal. They can do it now.

The quoted ad is right in saying "Every Mainer has a right to love whom they choose but nobody has the right to redefine marriage." This is true because words get their definition from common usage. They don't get their meaning from the government, and they don't get their meaning from voting. "Marriage" will go on meaning what it has always meant, whatever lawyers want to call it.

The people who keep trying to get this common word redefined show their ignorance of language whenever they speak up.

Dave Bussey's picture

separate but equal

In the southern united states, as well as in much of the rest of the country, civil rights legislation changed the meaning of "equal rights" from "separate but equal" to "equal and equal." You think that was a bad idea?

Jason Theriault's picture

Wrong

They are not free to do what they want. They are not allowed to marry their partner.

Why do those who oppose this measure do so? It won't change your marriage at all. You seek to deny someone something that most of us consider a human right, and because you don't want to. Really, I have yet to hear a reason that comes anywhere close.

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