My spouse and I took our 6-year-old son camping in Maine right before the school year began. I have been camping there since I was 2 myself. Maine doesn’t exactly feel like home to me, but it does feel like vacation.
It was new for me, then, to be thinking about politics as we drove down Route 1A toward Acadia National Park. The many small evangelical churches lining the road, however, made me wonder how many of them were helping to try and revoke marriage equality. I had visions of another Proposition 8-like defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.
Our first full day there, we drove up Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the park. My spouse and I debated whether to hike a trail that ran across the saddle between that peak and nearby Dorr Mountain. It was a boulder-strewn route and no easy walk for us, much less our 6-year-old son.
I’m not sure what motivated him. Perhaps it was the “Junior Ranger” shirt he had gotten during a trip to Yosemite. He convinced us he was up for it, however, and off we went, asking him at regular intervals if he’d had enough.
He not only did the entire route, out and back, but put us to shame, scrambling up the boulders with a nimbleness to match his favorite superhero, Spiderman. The funny part? The next day, we took a more modest flat path around a beautiful pond. He was groaning with boredom by the end of it. He far preferred the more interesting trek.
The uphill climb
Acadia’s mountains, of course, pale in relation to the better-known national parks out West. The peaks of California’s Yosemite make Cadillac Mountain seem like a modest hillock.
The fight to preserve marriage equality in Maine feels a little like that, too. The overall LGBT community and the media at large seemed much more engaged over the Prop. 8 battle than over the Maine one, local activists excepted.
I wonder if part of the reason for the lukewarm national reaction to the Maine referendum is that the Prop. 8 battle, like our rockier hike, seemed more interesting. Celebrities weighed in, iconic LGBT neighborhoods like the Castro and West Hollywood took up the cause and people were more likely to want to participate.
I’m not sure that our solution for getting our son to finish the tamer hike — the promise of s’mores after dinner — would be as effective in encouraging people across the country to get more engaged in Maine’s No On 1 campaign. If it would, I’d gladly ship out a few bags of marshmallows.
Marriage and children
Still, I found a few reasons to hope. On the way down Cadillac Mountain, we passed a straight couple and stopped to exchange a few pleasantries. They asked our son if he was enjoying himself, and when he said yes, the woman said something like, “It’s nice your moms are taking you on such trips.” It was clear that in the minute or so we had chatted, she figured out that we were a family and it didn’t faze her one bit.
I have no idea if the couple were Maine residents, but I’d like to imagine they were at least aware of the pressing need to help secure equality in the state. The same goes for the two women who were putting a kayak in the water as we took ours out the next day. If they weren’t a couple of dykes, my gaydar needs serious recalibration. So — evangelical churches on the one hand; same-sex and accepting straight couples on the other. I’m not sure where I’d bet at the moment.
One similarity between the Prop. 8 fight and that of Referendum 1 is that the right is making children a focus of their arguments. “The interests of children in ensuring healthy marriages will be eliminated,” says the standformarriagemaine.com Web site. “If the gay-marriage law takes effect, teachers could have little choice but to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage and parents could lose control over what their kids learn in school about marriage.”
As I wrote with regard to Prop. 8, do these people really think children of same-sex parents will stop talking about their families in schools, regardless of what the curriculum says? Will they stop from bringing in photos of their parents’ Massachusetts, Canadian and (soon) New Hampshire weddings for show and tell? The rocks along the Maine coast can’t stop being worn down by the waves. The opponents of marriage equality will be similarly helpless against the constant influx of LGBT people and our families into society.
Stepping it up
This doesn’t mean we should be complacent. While many of us are already engaged with the Maine struggle, more of us need to be. We need to make sure our friends and family across the country are, too. (I don’t mean to imply this should trump other state and local battles for equality; only that those who helped fight Prop. 8 from outside California should likewise help with Referendum 1.)
Yes, it’s a lot to do, especially for us parents who have the best chance of countering the right’s fear-mongering about children. It doesn’t take long, however, to send off a few e-mails or point friends to Protect Maine Equality’s Facebook page (easily found with a search).
Where do we find motivation, then, when balancing work and family keeps us busy enough? Not in s’mores, but in our children, who may surprise us with the height of the mountains they climb.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.