As same-sex marriage proponents in Maine are facing the challenge of how to deal with defeat, proponents in Washington are feeling the heat while they patiently wait for their turn at the altar.
“When gay marriage does come to the nation’s capital, it will send a message to the entire country,” said Linsey Pecikonis, employee of Lambda Rising, a bookstore that serves the gay community in D.C. While Pecikonis is optimistic about same-sex marriage coming to D.C., she said that the results in Maine are being felt by proponents across the nation.
On Tuesday, Maine joined the ranks of California and Hawaii, when 53 percent of voters overturned same-sex legislation that had already been approved by the local government.
Raymond Miller of New York said the loss in Maine proves that there is a long road ahead for equality for lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transgenders everywhere.
“More LGBT people need to be out. To everyone. Friends. Family. Coworkers. Neighborhoods. Religious communities. That’s step 1,” Miller said. “Step 2 is to let these people in your life know that it’s absolutely important to you that LGBT Equality be granted, federally and thus one day socially. That LGBT youth have a 1 in 3 suicide attempt rate.”
“There’s a community of people born into a lie imposed by the hatred and ignorance of a bigoted majority,” Miller continued. “One cannot simply ‘agree to disagree’ when this particular ‘disagreement’ results in an historically oppressed minority group continuing to be set aside as second-class “lesser’ persons.”
For Miller the fight for marriage equality is not even about marriage, but rather as being seen as a human being.
For opponents of same-sex marriage in D.C., the outcome in Maine is a milestone victory.
“Maine demonstrates that if you let citizens vote they will choose to shut down same-sex marriage,” Rev. Anthony Evans said. “This does not mean that the vast majority of the residents are hateful.”
Evans, who supports a ballot initiative here, said the results in Maine should send a clear message to D.C. elected officials that they can not impose same-sex marriage on residents.
If and when the city council passes the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, Evans said he and other opponents of same-sex marriage will take their opposition to Congress.
On Nov.10, the D.C. council will begin voting on the amendment, which is sponsored by 10 of the 13 council members.
In May, the council voted to recognize the marriages of residents who were married in any of the six states where same-sex marriages are legal. A month later, a referendum on the Civil Marriage Equality Act was denied.
If passed, the amendment would permit same-sex marriage in the District. It would also protect officials of non-profit religious organization from being required to celebrate any marriage if doing so violates his or her rights. The bill would amend the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992 and discontinue the registration of new domestic partnerships after Jan. 1, 2011.
It would also allow them to continue their domestic partnerships or convert their partnerships into a marriage without paying additional fees.
On Monday, the council held the second round of public hearings with testimony from more than 200 residents.
Nick McCoy has spent the past six months traveling to every corner of the District trying to educate and garner support for same-sex marriage. As a member of the gay community, McCoy said that what is done today will impact the way the future is shaped.
“I understand that there is a lot of work to do to ensure that marriage equality not only becomes a matter of law, but also does not become a decisive issue for our community,” McCoy testified last week.