Truth Pressed to the Earth Will Rise Again
by Harris Parnell
On the historic election day of 2008, Equality Maine, the LGBTQ rights group here in Vacationland, worked with hundreds of volunteers across the state and gathered over 30,000 signatures in favor of marriage equality. 30,000 signatures, in case you’re wondering, is an astonishing number of folks engaged in one day in Maine.
Those 30,000 people helped to launch the most extensive and impressive campaign for equal rights we’ve ever seen here—from the legislature to the governor to the educational and get-out-the-vote work. The League, as part of the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition, was right there with them.
Let me give you a little bit of background:
Over 4,000 supporters of marriage equality showed to the public hearing in April (4,000 people don’t show to anything in Maine!) where we listened to Philip Spooner, an 85 year old lifelong Republican who served on Omaha beach talk about why he wants all of his son to have equal rights.
We heard from Catholic Mainers including the Redickers, who are just “normal Maine citizens”. And Sam Putnam, a ninth grader whose moms can’t get married and says “we shouldn’t even have to ask to be treated like human beings.”
These stories are only a small sampling of the thousands of stories like them across the state.
The public hearing went well into the night and once the bill his the House and Senate floors, it passed with a wide margin.
Even better, our formally anti-same-sex-marriage governor became the first in the nation to sign a marriage equality into law. Seriously, y’all, it was exciting!
But, because for some reason, people feel like they have the right to tell me whom I can and cannot marry, the marriage law never went into effect. You see, here in Maine, we have this wonderful, but overused, law that if citizens (and increasingly, corporations, radical right wingers, and other nutjobs) are upset with a law that the legislature passed, they can do a so-called “peoples’ veto.” This means that the law will not begin until Mainers vote on it (after getting the 53,000 signatures needed to put it onto the ballot).
This, however, we knew would happen all along—hence the pro-active election day work.
Long story short, we had thousands of volunteers across the state who knocked on doors, made phone calls, raised money, talked to their neighbors, their co-workers, their friends and family about why they should vote “no” to protect marriage equality in the state. My partner, Meredith, our friend Mia from Vermont, and I went to canvass bright and early Saturday morning before the election.
We are seasoned campaigners—between the three of us, we’ve probably canvassed hundreds of thousands of people (not to mention the canvass offices we’ve run)—and we were in the minority in the room. Most of the volunteers on Saturday had never knocked on another person’s door to bring them a little democracy. And that was true for the campaign—people came out (heh) of the woodwork to support their queer friends and family—even if they had never done anything political in their lives. Suddenly, it was personal. That made it special.
By the end of the night last night, we knew we’d lost. The party, which had been rockin (you know how the gays like to party) and celebratory sobered up, cried a bit into our gin and tonics, and with heavy hearts, went home.
Waking up this morning knowing that I can’t marry my fiancée (and y’all, I throw a great party) and enjoy the same rights as our married friends, was a little traumatic. I lay in bed with tears streaming down my face listening to the haters saying that rejecting equal rights for all is “An act of God.” Uh-huh. Pretty sure God didn’t say “vote yes on 1.”
This quote, however, got me out of bed and to the press conference where our side officially conceded:
"I know some of you are asking today, ‘How long will it take?’ I come to say to you...however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth pressed to the earth will rise again." -MLK, Jr.
We will win this battle for equality—and it’ll be in our lifetime, led by you and me.
I’m looking forward to it—to working with you to make sure that everyone has the same rights under the law.