We want what everyone wants — happiness and the personal freedoms our forefathers lived and died for.
Gay marriage in Maine will have the obvious economic impact that everyone is expecting. Maine is already a popular vacation and wedding destination, and we are now positioning ourselves to welcome one more element to that scenario. Gays are traditionally loyal to those who court their business. Beginning in September, Maine will be in the unique position to invite a group of people who tend to have a higher disposable income and love pomp and circumstance (and all the trappings that come with it). Maine will then be able to show the world a tolerant and welcoming hand to a group that has, until recently, been a marginalized and discriminated-against segment of mainstream society.
The DownEast Pride Alliance (DEPA) is a gay and gay-friendly business-networking organization that began a year ago to provide a safe place for business people to meet once a month for cocktails and conversation. Gathering at various restaurants and establishments in greater Portland, we have had smashing success and growth with each networking event. We have intentionally held our events at diverse venues to expose our supporters to those businesses wishing to expand their client base and who recognize the gay business community as a lucrative market and resource. In turn, these events show our supporters that allies do exist — those who do support the gay business community — and in many instances, reveal people that the gay community never knew cared.
Gay marriage is a huge milestone for the roughly 100,000 gay men and women who call Maine home. It gives them equality in all segments of society that has been unfairly denied to them for centuries. Gay men and women will now be able to build families, love each other openly with no fears of reprisal, have unions recognized in the eyes of the law, and share in the economic benefits that straight spouses are able to do.
DEPA sees its role as facilitator-of-dialogue between the gay and straight communities strengthened by the gay marriage initiative. Many people in Maine silently support our cause and have shown so many times in referendums. By giving these fundamental rights to gay society, we will start to see more stability in mainstream gay culture. With that stability, you will begin to see more gay people empowered to be entrepreneurs, to be "out" to their business associates, and to be vibrant and contributing parts of mainstream society and dialogue.
Sid Tripp and Leah Bartley, co-founders of DEPA, believe that society will come to see that gay Americans deserve the rights that every straight American takes for granted. We are your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, your co-workers, business associates, your neighbors, and your friends. We want what everyone wants — happiness and the personal freedoms our forefathers lived and died for. This giant step will seek to correct past mistakes and recognize that "love is a force of nature," and is something that we all have in common.
Sid Tripp is a co-founder of the DownEast Pride Alliance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.