Videos, Lies, and Fear of Same-Sex Marriage
First, the news. Last Tuesday, the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians issued a strongly-worded statement in support of the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign. Among the highlights:
"As physicians who care for children and their families, we are committed to supporting what is best for children.
“'Marriage equality is the right thing for Maine's children, and will strengthen and protect families who have lacked legal recognition for too long,' said Augusta pediatrician Dan Summers."
Two days later, a consortium of other Maine groups (including the Maine Children’s Alliance, National Association of Social Workers Maine Chapter, Community Counseling Center, Kids First Center, and others) took a similar stance. In a press release, Dr. David Lilly, president-elect of the Maine Psychological Association said:
"Allowing same-sex couples to join in marriage can enhance their legal and emotional security, and can benefit the children being raised by gay and lesbian couples. Children benefit not only from strong emotional bonds with both parents, but also from the stability and assurance stable legal bonds provide.”
So much for the "they're coming for your children" argument being put forward by the Yes-On-1 campaign.
Sadly, this will not be the last word on the matter. It's just like the frantic (though false) assertion that allowing gays and lesbians to wed will somehow destroy the institution of traditional marriage — despite the remarkable fact that in Massachusetts, where marriage equality has been on the books for over five years now, the divorce rate has dropped to a 37-year low.
Expect to hear a lot about the "sanctity of marriage" between now and November 4.
Facts are not the issue in this campaign — not, at any rate, on the anti-gay-marriage side. The only issue, for these folks, is fear. How else to explain this Yes-On-1 video in which a stricken-looking teacher implores us to vote down marriage equality "to prevent homosexual marriage from being taught in Maine schools."
It's hard to call this a flat-out lie — the wording of the ad is too weaselly for that. It does not claim, for instance, that the marriage-equality law actually on the books would require same-sex marriage to be "taught" (whatever that means) to Maine schoolchildren. That would be a lie: under Maine law, there's no requirement for schools to teach anything about marriage at all, gay or otherwise. Such decisions are made at the local level, with input from the community.
But wait — the story of this video gets even more interesting. First, it isn't a made-in-Maine product at all, but an exact copy of a video produced for the Proposition 8 campaign in California, in which voters overturned that state's marriage-equality law. The only difference is a little cut-and-paste job to replace the California teacher with one Charla Bansley, whom the ad identifies as a teacher in Ellsworth. Ms. Bansley is a teacher, that much is true — though not in a public school, and not in Ellsworth, but at Cavalry Chapel Christian School in Orrington.
In a further entertaining twist, someone identifying him- or herself as a student in Ms. Bansley's English class — English, no less — has posted an ungrammatical but fascinating story on a gay-news blog, recounting how he or she was nearly expelled from school for writing, as part of a class assignment, a pro-gay-marriage letter to the Bangor Daily News. (The letter was not published, and the comment, like all such things, might be fake. But read it — I find it persuasively detailed and convincing.)
Now one has to ask: If the case for overturning Maine's marriage-equality law had genuine merit — that is to say, if giving people like me the right to marry would somehow endanger children, or threaten the "sanctity of marriage," or creep insidiously into our classrooms — why can't the Yes-On-1 side produce a single ad, or even a bumper sticker, based on fact rather than fear? Why has no impartial professional organization with the heft of, say, the American Academy of Pediatrics come forward to support its claims? Why are no teachers at non-parochial schools (again, people like me) speaking out?
Thankfully, there are two sides to this debate. Equality Maine, spearheading the No-On-1 campaign, has shown itself to be deft, sane, and refreshingly aggressive in setting forth a positive case for granting equal marriage rights to everyone — and in knocking down the baseless assertions of the opposition. The group's own videos are all affirmative and well-produced. I especially like this one.
Public opinion, as things stand, is evenly divided on this issue. The vote on November 4 will be close.