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    VIEWS A fight continues
by Richard J. Yurko
2009-11-11


I live in Ogunquit, Maine. I married my husband five years ago when we both lived in Massachusetts. Our marriage, recognized in Massachusetts, is not recognized in my current state of residence.

One part of the statute that was vetoed by the plebiscite yesterday was a provision recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. I am personally devastated by the vote. I can only imagine the devastation for life-long Mainers who have never had the chance to marry.

They say that victory has many parents and defeat is an orphan. It seems that on this listserv defeat is a bastard and everyone wants to point to everyone who screwed us to produce this defeat. One certainly could make a list of folks, feckless allies, that perhaps could have helped make this vote a victory rather than a defeat. One could make an even longer list of folks that worked against us, with misrepresentations, lies, fear and prejudice.

On the other hand, rather than dwelling on everyone that could have helped, but didn't, or on all the folks that actively worked against us, I want to pause for a moment to do two things.

First, simply to mourn the loss and to imagine what could have been.

Second, there is a still longer list of caring, devoted and committed individuals who did whatever they could and who worked tirelessly to try to defend marriage equality in Maine. Gay/straight, young/old, those with money, those with time, those with industry and compassion tried to get this thing done. I have never been simultaneously as devastated individually and yet as proud of a massive effort in my life. My husband and I gave money until it hurt, we held a fundraiser at our restaurant that raised many tens of thousands locally, we wrote and posted our friends, we posted No on 1 signs, we housed young volunteers who came to Maine to aid in the canvassing and get out the vote. Despite all this I feel as though our contributions were nothing compared to the many, many others around the state who did even more, so much more, and the friends from around the nation who also pitched in with time, money, hard work and all kinds of support—recognizing that although this was not their fight in their backyard, the fight of each of us is the fight of all of us. I feel I owe a bottomless debt of gratitude to these folks. I wish I could look each of them in the eye and assure them that, whenever they need similar help, I will be there.

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When your home is burning and a neighbor comes to help you battle it, you owe him or her a debt regardless of whether you save the home. That person was there for you. So many folks were there for us. To each of you, I am indebted.

Maybe Maine was not Obama's fight; indeed, Obama has never said he is with us in the cause of marriage equality. On the other hand, for instance, Obama has said that he would rid us of Don't Ask Don't Tell. That is his commitment to us, and to date he has not acted when, in fact, he can. Some of you will give him more time. Some of you will not. For my part, I consider immediate elimination of DADT as a marker. It was his promise, he has the power, it is his arena, and it is one more stigma and badge of prejudice that needs to be removed. So, too, was DOMA. For me this is another marker. Obama has said it should be repealed, yet he has done nothing on this front. And let's not forget that the Democratic Party is more than Obama. To all the weak-kneed Nancy Pelosis, Harry Reids and similar feckless "allies" in Congress, grow a backbone. In the last 90 days I have seen more backbone, courage and mettle in young college students from Cincinnati who came to Maine to work for equality than I have seen in most of our 535 elected folks on Capitol Hill. After this fight, I know whom I respect. I respect the devoutly Catholic grandmother who recorded a moving ad to other Mainers saying that her son and his partner, who are making a good home for their young son, deserve the right to get married. I respect those college students from Cincinnati. I respect and love those friends and strangers who knocked on doors, wrote checks, advocated and worked so hard. I respect Mary Bonauto who debated the forces of prejudice tirelessly and everywhere there was a mike and a podium. I respect the truly tireless organizers of the No on 1 campaign who did everything they could think of to get this done and who, against all odds, almost succeeded. On the other hand, Barack, Nancy and Harry, you have yet to earn my respect. The most difficult thing to do in life is to speak truth to power. If any of you on this listserv are in a position to speak truth to the Democratic Party's power, tell them that the time is now to earn our respect.

There is a course to history. Our rights shall come. There are too many incredible people of passionate intensity and good will fighting for those rights for it not to arrive. Today, I simply have to recognize and reconcile myself to the fact that it will take a bit longer in Maine.

Richard J. Yurko is married to Robert F. Leary and they have three sons, aged 24, 22 and 20. Yurko is the founding shareholder of the Boston law firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, P.C., and he and Leary own The Morning Dove B&B and a restaurant, Katie's on Shore Road, in Ogunquit, Maine.

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