Question 1: Do you want to allow the state of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?

Permitting gay couples to marry will uphold equal treatment required by the U.S. Constitution, promote family values and protect religious beliefs. The ballot initiative is a matter of fairness and, in the end, care for one another.

It’s a matter of equality. Partners raising their children together should both be able to make medical decisions concerning their children’s welfare. Partners should be able to benefit from the others’ pension. But, most of all, gay couples should have the affirmation that their home state respects their belief in marriage and their commitment to each other.

Maine cannot discriminate against gays and lesbians on matters of housing, employment, public accommodation, credit or education. It should not, then, be able to discriminate when it comes to the right of marriage. Some people may understandably oppose gay marriage for religious reasons, but — while the church has played a long and important role in marriage — they should remember that marriage licenses are issued by the state.

They should also remember that no one is trying to change their beliefs. Clergy will not be forced to perform marriage ceremonies or bless gay couples. The legal freedom that protects clergy, allowing them the ability to choose whom to join in marriage, is the same legal freedom gay couples are seeking to be able to marry. Extending legal protections to the few does not hurt the majority.

In his state of the union address in 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower spoke of ending discrimination against minorities. His words apply today:

“Our civil and social rights form a central part of the heritage we are striving to defend on all fronts and with all our strength. I believe with all my heart that our vigilant guarding of these rights is a sacred obligation binding upon every citizen. To be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others.”

Some argue that gay couples should be granted only civil unions. How, though, under the 14th Amendment, is separate ever equal? What is currently missing is the public recognition of the private love, of which the most accurate representation is marriage. People want to build supportive families. This is a good thing.

Gay couples in Maine have been patient as the Legislature and voters have debated laws that aimed to give them or take away rights. In 2009, the Legislature voted to make same-sex marriage legal. Maine voters repealed the law that fall, 53 percent to 47 percent. Now, three years later, voters must decide whether their decision then represents what they want now. Maine couples will gain the right to marry if all supporters vote. Please make that effort for the people who want to marry but cannot.

Voting yes on Question 1 represents commitment to human rights and respect of religious beliefs. History is shining a spotlight on Maine, as potentially the first state to legalize same-sex marriage by a referendum vote driven by proponents. We hope voters affirm Maine as a place where people value the rights of all their neighbors equally.