Question 1 is the stuff referendums are made of. Everybody has an opinion.
Whether to allow same-sex marriages resonates differently inside every Mainer, depending on the unique social ingredients that have comprised their lives. For some, it is an issue of nature. For others, it is nurture. Marriages are either unbreakable, sacred contracts with God and spouse — or just the filing status on your tax return. It all matters what you believe.
On Nov. 3, voters will decide same-sex marriages in Maine. If approved, we would join the states that have deviated from defining marriage as between man and woman, either by affirming the rights of same-sex couples to marry, or offering the chance to enter into legal "civil unions." If repealed, we would join California as states that have overturned it.
Since its introduction over a year ago, the notion of gay marriages has spun the social, political, moral and religious compasses of Maine, making Question 1 — at its core — a referendum about our society. It is only right, then, our society shall now decide it.
Until recently, campaigning around marriages was respectful and eloquent. Though many disparate voices have been heard, one common conclusion was drawn: marriage remains a powerful institution, worthy of protection or extension. The numerous impassioned arguments about its proper definition have been a stirring validation of its importance.
As a ballot initiative, though, the lofty rhetoric stopped and the mudslinging began. Whatever mutual respect that existed faded. Those on each side of this issue have battled, while failing to acknowledge the other is not — either technically, morally or philosophically — wrong. (Such is the standard of politics.)
The quest for social equality is inarguable. Yet so is defense of fundamental beliefs. Instead of recognizing this, we're stuck stumbling through a morass of educational and judicial interpretations of effect, bizarre allegations of indoctrination, and public backlash against the Catholic Church that's painted it as an evil agent of oppression. The legislative discussion about marriage that ended with stirring, enlightening soul-searching by lawmakers has turned into base political finger-pointing.
In April, as this issue was being debated under the State House dome, we felt it was appropriate to send it to voters, as matters of great public importance should be decided by the people. Our opinion hasn't changed. Question 1 has deep-seated political, moral and religious implications that touch every Mainer differently. So, on Nov. 3, every Mainer should have their say.
Our preference on marriage would be the status quo; this is what we believe about the institution. Yet we realize our opinion is one of many, and no single entity is privileged or entitled to decide whether same-sex marriages should be granted in Maine.
Same-sex marriage has sparked a clash of many ideals; one overrules them: The principle of a democracy, the system where popular sentiment is the ultimate authority. Not the Legislature. Not the Bishop. Not the activists. Not the faithful.
On Question 1, the people should decide.