As promised, when anyone sends me their LD 1020 testimony (as long as they send it to me before today's hearing ends), I'll post it:
Joint Committee on the JudiciaryTestimony of Mary L. Bonauto, Civil Rights Project Director,Gay & Lesbian Advocates & DefendersApril 22, 2009Senator Bliss, Representative Priest, and Honorable Members of the JudiciaryCommittee: My name is Mary Bonauto. I live in Portland with my partner of 21 yearsand our two daughters. I became a member of the Maine bar in 1987, and since 1990,have worked for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (“GLAD”), a New Englandwidelegal organization that seeks equal justice under law for gay people. I am here tosupport LD 1020.I’ve seen and appreciate the many steps forward taken by the legislature over theyears to address the needs of gay and lesbian people and families. At the same time, Irespectfully submit that the time for incremental steps like LD 1118, the Registryexpansion, is over.Our state Constitution provides that no person may “be denied the enjoyment ofthat person’s civil rights or be discriminated against in the exercise thereof.” But denyingmarriage denies basic civil rights and denies gay people the chance to join together in anesteemed legal and social institution that marks a couple as a family.Goodness knows, in my position, I realize gay and lesbian couples need legalprotections. But alternatives to marriage are not adequate and will not end the debate.Study Commissions in Vermont and New Jersey demonstrate that civil unions did notcreate parity between married couples and those in civil unions – because only marriage30 Winter Street, Suite 800Boston, MA 02108(617) 426-1350www.glad.org2provides the protections of marriage. Only the word “marriage” provides a gateway tothe thousand-plus protections of marriage at the federal level. Although current federallaw bars married same-sex couples from those protections, President Obama seeks torepeal that discriminatory law and GLAD filed a legal challenge to it last month. Wehope to succeed.Apart from legal rights, marriage carries profound personal meaning, for thecouples and for others who instantly grasp its significance. Time and again inMassachusetts and Connecticut, I’ve seen an outbreak of happiness when couples couldat last join in marriage. Is terminology really innocuous? What married person wouldexchange his or her marriage for a “domestic partnership?” Because it is understood byall, the word “marriage” is itself is a protection.Alternatives to marriage also fail as a matter of principle. The Massachusetts highcourt rejected an attempt by some to substitute civil unions after its marriage ruling. TheCourt said the differences “between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’” [were]“not innocuous; [but]… a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrableassigning of same-sex … couples to second-class status. … The history of our nation hasdemonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal.” Others courts have agreed, and thisyear Vermont jettisoned its separate system for gay people and made marriage availableto all committed couples.No other system is the same as marriage, and no other system provides the sameprotections. Please support LD 1020. Thank you.