ME Speaker of the House Hannah Pingree’s Testimony
Updated: Here is a partial video clip of her testimony.
Among those who gave testimony at the public hearing on Wednesday to Maine’s Judicial Committee was House Speaker Hannah Pingree, who with 63 others, co-sponsored the bill.
And before anyone asks, YES- Hannah is indeed the daughter of Maine’s First District Representative, Chellie Pingree.
This was not only a great speech but a very personal one. I am pleased to share it below.
TESTIMONY OF SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE HANNAH M. PINGREE IN SUPPORT OF LD 1020, “AN ACT TO END DISCRIMINATION IN CIVIL MARRIAGE AND AFFIRM RELIGIOUS FREEDOM”
Senator Bliss, Representative Priest and the other distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary; I am Speaker of the House Hannah M. Pingree of North Haven. I am proud to stand before you with my fellow House co-sponsors to express our support for the passage of LD 1020, “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.”
For too long, gay and lesbian Mainers have lived in the shadow of real civil rights. And while Maine has taken important steps in the right direction over the years – the time for incremental change is over. It is time that we recognize that all Maine people and all Maine families are worthy of the respect, dignity, rights and protections afforded by civil marriage.
LD 1020 simply grants same-sex couples the right to a civil marriage – opening the doors to the myriad of protections and legal rights which accompany that state-designated status. It is important to note that LD 1020 does nothing to change the status of religious marriage in Maine. Religious institutions remain free to follow their own doctrines, even if that means refusing to perform or recognize religious marriage for gay and lesbian couples. LD 1020 specifically affirms the religious freedom of each church or faith to determine for itself whether to perform and recognize same-sex marriages.
Today and over the coming weeks, you will hear from many Maine couples who want to marry – and who suffer harm because the state refuses to give them the same legal status that many of us enjoy. You will also hear from others who argue that this debate is happening too quickly, that this bill asks for too much change, too fast. We could not disagree more. The time for true civil rights is always “now.”
We are living in difficult times, with challenging budgets for our state, our communities, and for our families. We are facing a sinking economy that requires our immediate and ongoing attention. But the significance of the issues before us this session does not give us an excuse to ignore the struggles our families and fellow Mainers are facing. There is no “right” time to ensure fairness and equality. Equal protection under the law is a right to which all Maine people and families are entitled, and they should not be asked to wait.
Lastly, we want to remind you that as the people’s representatives, it is our job to listen to all the evidence presented before us, discuss the issues thoughtfully, argue respectfully, and come to a decision. It is our responsibility to take a stand. We have signed onto this important legislation because we believe sending this issue out to referendum is an abdication of our responsibility as participants in representative government. We should have the courage to vote our conscience on behalf of the people of Maine.
Personally, this issue was brought home for me two summers ago when my husband and I were married. Our island pastor was on a trip abroad and unavailable to perform our wedding ceremony. My husband and I wanted to be married by someone we knew and trusted. We asked a good family friend to perform our wedding; we knew his tone, his presence, and his sense of humor would be perfect. He was honored to do it and we immediately got to work planning the ceremony. Throughout the preparations for our wedding, he gave us honest and valuable advice about the joys and challenges of a lifetime of commitment to another person. He gave us some of the best advice either of us has ever received about marriage.
As we drove away from our wedding rehearsal, all of us happy and relieved that everything seemed to be going well, my friend said to me, “I am honored to perform your wedding. It is going to be great. But it is important to understand that you and Jason have the right to do something very special, and it’s a right that I don’t have.” The friend that married us is a gay man who has been in a committed and loving relationship with the same man for more than 30 years.
I was struck in that moment that a person whom I respected and trusted – a person as close to me as some of my dearest relatives, a person whose relationship was a model for me of trust, compassion, and longevity – was legally denied a right and status that my husband and I were about to be granted. There is nothing fair about giving some committed couples in Maine the right to the legal responsibilities and privileges of marriage – and denying it to others.
Because the status quo is discriminatory, unfair, and unjust, we strongly urge you to vote “ought to pass”. Thank you for your time, and in advance for the endurance and patience I know you will all have today, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.