Gay Marriage Debate Fills Civic Center 

Emotions ran high in Augusta Wednesday during a day-long public hearing on a bill that would legalize same sex marriage.While most bills are heard at the state house, this one had to be moved to the civic center to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted to be heard.The debate has begun with voices from both sides speaking loud and clear.The bill’s sponsor, Senator Dennis Damon, spoke first. “Live and let live.”Followed by a standing ovation.But it wasn’t long before opponents had their say. “Parenting will no longer exist. Now I know I’m simply a farm boy from central Maine, but I learned many years ago that children don’t happen without a mom and dad.” Said state representative Phil Curtis.While some say family tradition will be lost to government if the same sex marriage law passes, others say killing the bill would deny civil rights just as history has to minorities. “I remember 40 years ago even people in Maine told us it was wrong to get married.” Said NAACP member Bob Talbot. “Blacks and whites should never marry, people say the same thing today about gay and lesbians. It was wrong 40 years ago, it’s wrong now!”With seating for 4,000, the auditorium filled up fast. Revealing a common theme, red, the color supporters of gay marriage wore to show their unity. But there were plenty of others representing those against the measure too.Pastor Bob Emrich says the foundation in which marriage is based on would be compromised if gay and lesbian couples were allowed to wed. “What we’re concerned about is that this experiment with redefining marriage no one really knows the long term consequences. We don’t know what the impact would be on children.” Same-sex couples who have adopted children couldn’t disagree more. “That was hard for me to swallow, because when we came in we talked about love, family, and security. ‘Because he’s not living with a male and female he’s going to be a drug addict, he’s going to fail in school’ and that’s absurd, it’s fear.” Gay father Rodney Mondor said. “To say that kids absolutely need a mom and dad negates all the wonderful things single parents have done, divorcees, widows, and by us.” Added mother and former Bangor Humane Society director Bev Uhlenhake.Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont are the only states to allow same sex marriage. On Friday, gay and lesbian couples in Iowa will be given the same rights. This public hearing only marks the beginning of Maine’s debate with the issue which could take weeks or months to come to a decision on.