ALL IS NOT LOST…MAINE
When I was member of The Source Magazine, traveling across the country to interview celebrities or speak on panels was business as usual. Though some of the subjects I wrote stories on left a lot to be desired, it was the opportunity to visit a place I had never ventured to, was what got me geeked most times. Those same feelings occurred during my recent visit to Portland, Maine observing and volunteering around ballot initiatives for their November 3rd elections.
Sometimes small is better, and Maine, being the small state that it is (population: 1,300,000/city of Portland: 65,000), a constituent’s connection to their elected officials is more intimate than say, Brooklyn (New York), and the people of Maine appear to be more engaged in the political process around the issues that affect them. We in the big cities have so many distractions that keep us less abreast about the things that directly affect us on the daily, so its not hard to see why political apathy, even in some of the most cosmopolitan of environs, is so prevalent. But not Maine. Witnessing young people as well as senior citizens phone banking, canvassing and stumping in the cold was very inspirational.
The two major ballot initiatives The League’s Maine affiliate (shout out to Harris, Jenna, Katie and Hillary for their tireless efforts) got behind were TABOR/Vote No on Question 4 and the same-sex marriage/Vote No on Question 1 proposals. The “Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights” (TABOR) proposal may see on the surface as something that anyone would want to endorse right? But the bill’s aim (which was soundly rejected in 2006) was not one of “protecting citizens.” On the contrary, the proposed tax-and-spending cap would’ve had a reverse affect in the cutting of aid to educational institutions and other social services. The resounding defeat of this proposal spoke volumes that the people of Maine cherish their vital public services, and that to balance a state budget does not always have to include as a measure, making draconian cuts to qualify numbers.
The Vote No on Question 1/"Should Maine repeal the same-sex marriage bill?", was the ballot proposal the generated the most excitement throughout the entire state, one that brought to forefront, a voter’s deeply-held beliefs about the concept and institution of marriage and the role it plays in public life. To see the organization of supporters of same-sex marriages out in full-force was an amazing spectacle to witness. One would think that the fierce momentum that the “Vote No on Question 1’ers” had on their side would translate in the voting booth and produce a victory of historic proportions. However, unfortunately, it was not to be. The measure was defeated in a close election, 53% said “yes,” while only 47% voted no. What this means is that same-sex couples are not entitled to the same legal previsions attributed to heterosexual unions i.e. health insurance benefits, just to name a few.
To say it was sad day for the LGBT community on November 4th was an understatement. Here’s a community, tax-paying citizens I might add, whose rights (or lack thereof), as a result of their bi-weekly paycheck deductions to the Federal government and their respective states deserve more than just politically-correct lip service – at the very least. I think why to date, the issue of civil unions or same-sex marriage proposals continues to be defeated in states across the country is not only just the deep-seated convictions of individuals belonging to various faith-based communities. I believe it also an issue of framing. What I mean is that too many times, the human element is missing in framing these bills. If people were simply made to see the irrationality of having someone’s parents make decisions regarding their daughter or son’s health – when they live 500 miles away, instead of that person’s partner, as an example, I think we could be closer to gaining consensus on civil unions.
Taking a position on this particular issue is not in conflict with my deeply-rooted Islamic beliefs, because I know the history of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Prophet constantly engaged in transactional relationships with tribes who did not believe like him and his emerging community of believers. And after the community reached the desired effect of that relationship, the Muslims who were soon beginning to outnumber non-Muslim tribes in Arabia, did not force their way of life on their neighbors they had contracts with. They ended just the relationship and went their separate ways. The Prophet believed that hopefully through his peaceful example and of his followers, that non-Muslims would come to accept Islam.
So to the people of Maine, keep fighting. You have a situation in your state that many of us residing in huge metropolises’ are envious of – direct access to politicians and politicians who readily make themselves to their constituents – and because of that relationship, change is on the horizon. Sometimes one has to take a step back, to make two steps forward.
God is the best knower and the final judge of all our affairs. By being just to all his creations is where I (and all) should hope to find his favor.