The two sides in the same-sex marriage referendum at times sound as if they are having two different debates.

Proponents focus on families led by same-sex couples and the profound impact acquiring the rights and responsibilities of a legal marriage contract would have on their lives.

Opponents tend to focus on the alleged impact same-sex marriage would have on the rest of society.

Some of the imagined impacts are a stretch. Others are blatantly false.

One of those is an allegation made by Protect Marriage Maine about the affect legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts had on adoptions by Catholic Charities in Boston.

According to the group’s website, “Religious groups like Catholic Charities in Boston” have had to choose between fulfilling their religious mission and “acquiescing to this new definition of marriage.”

Legal recognition of same sex-marriage has forced them “to close their charitable adoption agencies.”

But that is not the case. It was the Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination law, not the marriage law, that required an agency receiving public funds to treat all adoption applicants equally.

That is the same protection Maine statues require, and will continue to require regardless of whether the marriage referendum passes on Nov. 6.

It is also false to say that Catholic Charities was “forced” to stop providing adoption services. According to the former board chairman, the organization chose to stop providing services under orders from church hierarchy. For years, it had operated in compliance with state civil rights laws and had placed children in homes of same-sex couples.

This common distortion has become standard fare in the same-sex marriage debate across the country. Opponents say that providing equal legal standing to gay and lesbian couples will affect other families and institutions, but they can’t come up with real examples.

It’s time for the two sides to have the same debate.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have made a strong case for treating all families equally under the law. Opponents should try to explain what’s wrong with that.

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