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Governor Baldacci’s Journey

Here’s how marriage equality came to Maine:

Neighboring states began to recognize marriage equality. In two cases (Massachusetts and Connecticut), the recognition followed a court order. But in the other (Vermont), the legislature, after an experiment with civil unions, engaged in a lengthy and mostly respectful debate about whether such unions fully honor the loving relationships of same-sex couples. Concluding that only full marriage equality can achieve this compassionate end, the legislators last month overrode the governor’s veto, making marriage equality reality.

John Baldacci, a reasonable, centrist governor in the hard-Yankee state of Maine reflected on all of this, and on the impassioned testimony on both sides of this emotionally charged issue. He candidly stated that the goings-on in Vermont had made him reconsider his position, and that he’d moved from “no” on the issue, to undecided — in other words, persuadable. As was true about Iowa State Senator Mike Gronstal, Baldacci showed himself to be interested and fair-minded. It turns out he’s also accessible in a way that may pull you up short.

He read all emails sent to him on both sides of the issue, including a rather nasty one in favor of marriage equality. He then picked up the phone and called the sender of that email. Instead of rising to the level of anger invited by the email, he took the pot off the stove.

Here are his remarkable comments to this constituent:

“I was extremely impressed by the arguments for both sides, but especially by the proponents.

They were very respectful- I liked that they turned their backs when they disagreed.

I was truly impressed by the people who spoke for the bill.

I was opposed to this for a long time, but people evolve, people change as time goes by.”

This isn’t abortion, or religion, or any of the many issues on which a solid majority of the electorate is unlikely to change their opinions. The Governor, and millions of practical and empathetic Americans like him, are coming to see that allowing same-sex couples to marry isn’t destructive, or scary — it’s affirming and wonderful. The rock is almost at the top of the hill.

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