While I was hoping to open a logical and rational exchange of ideas under the forum of Professor Sargent’s OP-ED piece, it seems instead I uncovered a one-way conversation. So instead of reflecting on counter-arguments and thought-provoking policy innovation, I will laboriously and unfortunately spend this reply unwinding the spin that was very quickly used to silence an interesting conversation.
First, the statement “…this suggestion is irrelevant to the issue before voters (and one wonders if it is only presented in an effort to confuse the issue).” Given your reaction and response, I obviously failed in communicating 1.) my primary concern was with your OP-ED argument construction and claim that Maine is presenting Leading on this issue, and 2.) my goal to discuss potential alternative options (State-Sanctioned Legal Unions & Private marriage certifications) to maximize ALL couples and organizations rights and utility concerned the broader nationwide discussion on same sex-marriage, not Question One on Maine’s ballot. If you review my previous response, I echoed your championing on Yes on Maine’s Question One. Lastly, I’m assuming your allegation that somehow my purely academic suggestion of considering an alternative way to give everyone more rights was trying to confuse Maine voters was an unfortunate emotional reaction that probably would have been best removed.
Response to “The logic of this suggestion is identical to that of the Mississippi high school that canceled its prom, rather than allow a lesbian student to bring her female date. Rather than accommodate same-sex couples, we would rather just shut down the prom? Why?” I’m not sure if your argument holds as Legal Union as I thought I presented it would maintain and expand current State-sanctioned recognition rights, and the “marriage” label would be universally available for everyone. I think that is what we all want - equal rights for everyone? If this politically-loaded question wasn’t controversial and it was as simple as claimed, we wouldn’t be discussing it now. Discrimination is an ugly thing, and if that was the only issue, I believe all states would universally adopt anti-discriminatory laws and this would be a non-issue. But you know this already.
Response to “What is it about the love of committed same-sex couples that is so objectionable that would lead Mr. Gregoire to suggest that it's better to end state-sanctioned marriage than include them within the institution? ” This is yet another emotional, unjustified, and uncorroborated allegation. In my opinion this statement is undeserved and offensive, and I wholeheartedly object. If you review my prior post, you’ll see that no such statement or logic was presented and to the contrary I advocated for the expansion state-sanctioned recognition to ALL couples regardless of preference, so your statement is unfounded.
Response to “…a "yes" vote on Question 1 is a vote to somehow breach the rights of religious organizations and the referendum involves a zero-sum game where expanding same-sex couples' rights necessarily entail reducing opposite-sex couples' rights.“ Again your spin and priority (Question One). Your response and original OP-ED relates to your objective in influencing Question 1 voters, where my discussion relates to ALL initiatives to make ALL couples and ALL organizations better off now and in the future. I was just looking for an informed forum to unemotionally discuss how we can maximize everyone’s benefits in a way that isn’t controversial so that Maine might truly lead the country down an unbiased path that maximizes the rights of all Americans in a way that removes the controversy. It might be impossible and maybe partial victories are all that can be hoped for, but politics is all about compromise right?
Thanks for the rapid response and I look forward to either continuing this conversation or reading your next OP-ED.
The title of Professor Michael Sargent’s OP-ED piece is missing a critical third option of which it promotes primary; it should therefore be more aptly titled “Will Maine lead, FOLLOW, or lag behind?” Professor Sargent’s argument is that Maine will “lead” by coalescing and riding the rising national tide that socially supports same-sex marriage. This is by the nature of his argument Following - not leading. For Maine to “follow” it would slowly accept the controversial expansion of State-defined marriage requisites to include same-sex couples that would conflict with the rights of some institutions such as the Catholic Church. Personally, I support the idea of choice and equal rights under law; however, for Maine to LEAD, Maine has to forge a solution that is inclusionary and maximizes rights for ALL, not just a minority sub-group of society. For Maine to LEAD, a solution needs to be created that doesn’t limit or breach the rights of other critical not-state institutions that includes, but are not limited to: religious organizations, non-profit organizations, private NGOs, et cetera. The current referendum and conversation is a zero-sum argument that can generally be described as one where the amount of “Rights” is fixed and for one group to get more another must loose. This is the fundamental problem with the conversation that adds to its controversial nature and must be changed in order to find a more socially amiable solution. For Maine to LEAD and not just ride the rising tide, Maine must make take a bold and unorthodox step to change the conversation that makes it inclusionary, maximizing Rights for all. Maine should conduct a trial for America that privatizes the granting of Marriage certificates to state-registered private institutions such as social groups, religious organizations, fraternal organizations, et cetera. This is not as radical idea. These registered private groups could provide social marriage contracts in accordance with their own organizational beliefs and values. Additionally, all present state rights/responsibilities currently associated with legal marriage such as taxes, estate laws, inheritance laws, child care/support laws, guardianship, and tax dependents, et cetera would be renamed Legal Unions and would be available to couples comprising a “household”. Legal Unions would strictly be for legal standing of two people that commit to comprising a “household” and would not embody a social standing, social standing would remain with Marriages. The separation of “church and State” might again serve us well. This change might too provide greater stability and protection for children and the vulnerable. With this simple separation of social and legal assignment, a new option to maximum the utility and rights of all interested parties would be achieved, while still protecting: tax/legal rights of lawfully-recognized unions, vulnerable members of Maine’s population such as children, the mental ill, and the handicapped; and greater coverage for healthcare and social security benefits to same-sex couples and their children.
Yes a lot would have to be resolved to make this a smooth transition, but it does something that simply following the rising tide or falling behind does not - it transforms this social debate from a zero-sum conversation to an option that maximizes and protects our rights and social recognition, and doesn’t breach the rights of our important social institutions such as the Catholic Church. Let’s lead the Nation, not be led to an imperfect solution by it.