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Meet More of My Maine Neighbors, Lew and Jim

Please watch this very strong, emotional and stirring video from the Maine Augusta Civic Center public hearing, folks.

The speaker is a new friend of mine, Lew Alessio- fair warning, get a tissue:

I distinctly remember hearing Lew’s testimony; Charlie has just arrived at the Civic Center and we were in the far back of the auditorium together, both listening to Lew speak. His story moved me to tears, as well as shocked and horrified us both.

We met Lew today at the Kennebec County Democratic picnic and with his kind permission, I was given the following letter to share with all of you:

My Name is Lew Alessio, and my husband is Jim Shaffer. We live in Greene, Maine. We’ve been together for 8 years. Before I met Jim, I was in a relationship for 30 years. My partner, Peter Lystad was a teacher in the Auburn, Maine school system for many years. I taught at Monmouth Academy, Leavitt High School and the University of Maine. During the last two years of his life, Peter battled pancreatic cancer. I gave up my career and during that time I was his full-time caregiver.

I know first-hand about the critical rights and protections legal marriage provides-and what can happen when you don’t have them.

Peter died at home in 1999. We knew that day would come, and had drawn up legal documents we thought would make things easier after he was gone. But the local mortician at the time refused to remove Peter’s body from our home. Because we weren’t married, I wasn’t considered a legal relative, and it was at that moment that I learned that our plans were worthless. Durable Power of Attorney ends at death. Peter’s only living relative, his 96-year-old mother, was in a nursing home in Minnesota. She had Alzheimer’s and did not know who she was.

So there I was, at the worst time in my life, unable to do anything. Our 30 years together and my two years of constant care-giving meant nothing in the legal world after Peter died. They meant nothing to the mortician. If we had been legally married, I would have had the same right as any spouse to sign for his body.

Years later, I found a second chance for happiness when I met Jim. We legally married in Massachusetts, as soon as we were able to. But leaving Maine to marry was bittersweet. The state of Maine does not recognize our marriage, and denies us marriage’s rights and protections. Once again, the inequities of law treat our relationship differently from those of other citizens.

Ironically, Jim now is also battling cancer, and even after 18 surgeries the biopsy last week came back positive again. We have drawn up legal documents, and are hoping that will be enough to protect each other no matter what happens. We hope–but we worry. If being together though all of that isn’t love and commitment, or isn’t family or marriage, then I don’t know what is.

Whatever time Jim and I have left together, we want to be married in Maine. We want what other committed couples have; no more, no less, not special not different… just the same freedoms as other citizens in Maine. The new marriage equality law allows any religion to deny marriage to anyone, but it doesn’t force one religious belief on everyone.  If you live in Maine, we ask that you vote No on 1 to keep marriage equality in Maine.

Thank you so very much, Lew, and I will see you in a few weeks, my friend! 🙂

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1 Comment

  1. October 26, 2016 at 8:07 pm

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