Dear People of Maine:
This summer I wrote about taking my family to Maine for a vacation. I wrote of the deep love I feel for that stretch of Southern Maine from Oqunquit to Falmouth that holds the memories of my childhood and teenage years in every mile. I wrote about long days on the beach chasing waves, searching for sand dollars, and grappling with the ghosts of family who haunted me at every turn. I wrote about the satisfaction of sharing stories of skee-ball prowess at Old Orchard with my brother and illicit bar crawls through Portland with my sister. I wrote of the quiet emptiness that came of gathering at my parent’s gravesite and the need to connect with my home state and its people in places as pedestrian as the local Hannaford or cultured as the Portland Museum of Art. During our days and nights on Higgins Beach we blended seamlessly with every other family there. Why shouldn’t we? We, after all, were just another family trying to keep the beach umbrella from blowing away and wondering if 10am was too early to open the big bag of sour cream and onion potato chips. The fact that my family had two moms instead of a mom and a dad never turned anyone’s head. And really, why should it have? In fact the house we rented for that glorious week belonged to an old friend from high school and her wife. Clearly this was a welcoming community in a welcoming state.
As we drove down Route One that August Saturday on our way home, crammed into my jeep Liberty, tanned, with our stash of Len Libby Chocolate jammed near the air conditioning vents so it wouldn’t melt, I felt a tug at my heart as I realized that as much as I’ve come to feel at home in the rocky individualistic landscape of New Hampshire, Maine would always be the home that welcomed me back again and again.
Until last Tuesday.
Last spring when Maine Governor John Baldacci gave his stamp of approval to legislation allowing gays and lesbians to marry I rejoiced. The momentum of that act carried forward to June when New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed marriage equality into law as well. Kelly and I talked about how great it was to have the option to either get married here in the state we both call home or perhaps to entertain ideas of a seaside wedding in Ogunquit, our favorite quick jaunt destination. During those days it never occurred to me that the people of Maine would vote to approve a referendum grounded in hatred, discrimination, and injustice and take away the right that had been granted. When I woke Wednesday morning to the news of the previous days voting on Referendum One I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. To quote the character I’m playing in a show right now “how selfish and how cruel.” Selfish to feel that one has the audacious right to vote on whether another human being can marry the person she loves and cruel to exercise that vote with such callous disregard for the people and families it will affect.
This week had been hard on many fronts. Liza was sick and out of school for two days which necessitated the tried and true “working mom of a sick kid” juggling act. Two shows at the theater I work at had me driving back to work as soon as Kelly got home from her job as a nurse to relieve me at home. A long frustrating search for a costume for my show had left me as usual hating the oversized and oddly-shaped body I inhabit and envying the young slender women who had a world of costumes to choose from. By Saturday tempers were flaring at home as the stir-craziness of the sick house set in. My peri-menopausal hormones in full swing I snapped at Liza for her attitude and petulance and burst into tears when Kelly made a joke about my costume hunt. When I returned from the theater that evening, I was greeted by a scene that made me cry for completely different reasons. Kelly informed me she and Liza had shared many long talks, folded laundry together, made and ate dinner together (Liza set and cleared the table), researched astrology and family trees on the internet, and that during that time Kelly had gently asked Liza to “give mommy a break now and then.” The house of turmoil I had left was clean and calm. I apologized for my tears and outburst and they shared the knowing look of two people who had decided the third was lovably crazy and told me it was ok. As we turned in for the night I reflected on how blessed I was to have my girls.
This family scene could have been replayed thousands of times over in homes all across the country. The fact that the players were two women and a child rather than a man, woman, and child bears no consequence. This is my family, yes but at the end of the day it is just a family like any other — one full of hugs and hurts and tears and misunderstandings and game nights and grocery store runs and school chorus concerts and holiday traditions and vacation trips to the beaches of Maine.
So to the people of Maine I ask what is so threatening about this family picture? The ugly prospect of joint newspaper subscriptions and arguments over which way to hang the toilet paper? The repulsive thought of Kelly and I discussing who took the garbage out last? The terrifying concept of us being able to make medical decisions for each other without carrying around a lawyers briefcase full of legal documents? The horrifying idea that there would be two moms from one family volunteering at the pizza table at the school fundraiser? The disgusting image of our holiday Christmas cards? We are your neighbors, your brothers, your sisters, your mothers and fathers and your friends. We are next to you in church and in front of you at the movies. We cheer our kids on the soccer field and dance recital stages. We complain about our tax burden with you and gather in the morning to relive the best moments of the Super Bowl or the American Idol finale. We care for our elderly parents and struggle to make ends meet in difficult times. And in these difficult times we want what you want – to build a life and a legacy with the person we love.
And finally, dear People of Maine, let me reassure you that if a vote comes my way asking me if I feel it is ‘right’ for heterosexuals to marry each other or if I feel it is a threat to my way of life, I will remember this week and the way I felt and I will not turn my back on you as you have on me. I will stand up for equality for everyone. Because it’s the right thing to do.