In the time-honored tradition of live and let live, more than 100,000 Maine voters signed petitions to place marriage equality on the fall ballot.

In the most recent polls, a majority of Maine citizens said they want to extend the legal protections of marriage to Maine’s gay and lesbian citizens, fulfilling the promise of the 14th Amendment to equal protection under the law.

Out-of-state organizations — and their money — already have started trying to defeat Maine’s marriage equality initiative. I recently got three recorded calls telling me to go to the Republican caucuses to choose a candidate who will work against marriage equality.

The caller told me that, in blocking marriage equality, I would be “standing up for marriage” and “protecting the rights of children to have a mother and a father.”

I am writing to talk about the best interests of children. As a child and family therapist and school counselor in Maine since 1972, I have gotten to know many Maine families and many Maine children.

Some of those children lived in single-parent homes, some in homes with adults who lived together without marriage, some in homes where the adults who raised them were married to each other.

Some children in Maine are raised by heterosexual adults. Some are raised by gay or lesbian adults. What protects children?

Children benefit from stability. They do best when they know that the adults who love them and raise them will continue to be there for them.

Civil marriage is a social institution that increases stability for children and helps two adults maintain involvement in children’s health care, their education and their lives. Children benefit from a belief that their family is seen as a real family unit by their community.

The American Psychological Association states: “Research has shown that marriage provides substantial psychological and physical health benefits due to the moral, economic and social support extended to married couples.

“Conversely, recent empirical evidence has illustrated the harmful psychological effect of policies restricting marriage rights for same-sex couples. Additionally, children raised by same-sex couples have been shown to be on par with the children of opposite-sex couples in their psychological adjustment, cognitive abilities and social functioning.” ( press/releases/2010/08/support-same-sex-marriage.aspx)

Marriage is good for children for all of the above reasons. Providing the legal protections of marriage for all Maine citizens, not just some, will not harm the children of Maine.

Marriage equality will not reduce the number of children being raised by men and women as partners, as Maine’s gay and lesbian parents already are raising children. Marriage equality will provide stability and legal protections for all Maine’s children.

We also will hear out-of-state groups telling us that marriage equality is an attack on religious freedom. I would encourage Mainers to remember that our state’s initiative specifically protects religious institutions from having to marry same-sex couples. The initiative specifically focuses on civil marriage only.

The other argument we will hear — and that I already have heard — is that marriage equality threatens “traditional marriage.” I have been married for 42 years.

Including Maine’s gay and lesbian citizens in the protections of civil marriage does not in any way threaten my marriage or anyone else’s.

I urge the people of Maine not to be fooled by the distortions that out-of-state organizations will be sending our way between now and November.

Stan Davis of Wayne is a recently retired social worker and guidance counselor and has worked with Maine families and youth since 1972 as a therapist and school counselor. He also is part of the Youth Voice Project, a large national research project about what helps youth who are bullied.

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