Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Signing, a sign, a fall, a rising.

Today, Governor Baldacci signed a bill to legalize the fact of Gay Marriage in the state of Maine: LD 1020 "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom."

Nearly 25 years ago, Charlie Howard was pitched from a bridge above Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor by three teenagers. Charlie, who could not swim, drowned in the middle of down town Bangor.

Within days of his murder, the bridge had been tagged, "Faggots Jump Here."

The boys who killed him were eventually convicted, as juveniles, of manslaughter.

With the signing of LD 1020, there has been some talk about how far we've come. And we have come a ways, I suppose.

But just in February, 25 year old Scott Libby was strangled with a belt and beaten to death with a frying pan, thrown in a car and left parked on railroad tracks. Basically, because he was gay. Agostino Samson, the man alleged to have killed him, had known Libby for seven years and had been employed by him for a short time.
Samson told police he punched Libby in the nose twice after Libby made sexual advances toward him.
And yet,
According to the affidavit, Samson called Libby's mother, Nancy, of Raymond on Feb. 20 to say he had heard about Libby's death from his sister. Nancy Libby told police Samson "appeared to be crying quite hard on the telephone."
Few of the facts in that case have come out. Yet in spite of the limited story, you'd think the media would be all over it. For all the drama involved (beating, debts owed, a fairly complex attempt to mask a murder by creating a train accident), the local press just doesn't seem all that interested. All the salacious details would ordinarily indicate prime local newsfodder.

The train tracks have yet to be tagged, so I suppose our progress is shown less in the lack of violence than in the lack of glee attending it.

Certainly there are enough people incensed at the idea of Gays Among Us that I believe a petition drive will be mounted. I do not know if it will succeed. In Maine, it will lack the open support of the Republican Party. That's a little progress, I guess.

It will also lack the active support of the Church of Latter Day Saints -- there just aren't that many Mormons in Maine. It will be supported, however, by the Catholic Church. Unlike the Mormons, there are enough Catholics in Maine for the diocese to feel a stake in the story.

The vote in the Maine House (89-57) indicates that there remains significant opposition to the separation of personal conviction from constitutional protection. And the facile conflation and straight misrepresentation of facts persists:
Assistant House Minority Leader Phil Curtis, R-Madison, said he worries how the bill will affect parenting, education and religious liberty.

"L.D. 1020, as printed, proposes a radical redefinition of marriage as we have known it to be for all of history," he said.
Yet the law is signed.
"We see the referendum as an opportunity," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "Maine may well be the antidote to California."
Or, as my friend Doug said on the 'phone tonight, "The tide is rising."
And because

he's fallen for twenty-three years,
despite whatever awkwardness
his flailing arms and legs assume
he is beautiful

and like any good diver
has only an edge of fear
he transforms into grace.
Or else he is not afraid,

and in this way climbs back
up the ladder of his fall,
out of the river into the arms
of the three teenage boys

who hurled him from the edge-
really boys now, afraid,
their fathers' cars shivering behind them,
headlights on- and tells them

it's all right, that he knows
they didn't believe him
when he said he couldn't swim,
and blesses his killers

in the way that only the dead
can afford to forgive.

From "Charlie Howard's Descent"
by Mark Doty


Douglas Watts said...

Jim -- thank you. I am glad I was not the only person thinking of Charlie Howard in the last couple days.

I put up an essay about him at:


Doug Watts

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jim. When I read a reflection like this one and it was written by one of my children, I know that, dispite all our mistakes, we have raised three kids to be pretty wonderful people. I love you.

Pop Argot said...

Jim, thank you for this. You've been a great ally for a long time, and I'm ever grateful.