Gay marriage in Maine

People seeking an end to bigotry are pushing for the passage of a bill that would allow homosexuals to marry in Maine, making it one of the few states which does not illegally discriminate on the basis of gender.

“Some have asked if this is the right time,” said Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, the bill sponsor. “To them, I say, this legislation is long overdue.”

The bill would define marriage as the union of two people, rather than one man and one woman. It would allow any two eligible people, regardless of sex, to be issued an application for a marriage license.

This should put an end to the ‘if you allow gay marriage, you should allow beastiality’ argument. It won’t. But it should.

Essentially, “two eligible people”, as far as the secular Maine government is concerned, are two people of age who are capable of consent. That means 18 and with an understanding of the terms of their secular marriage contract – in other words, non-human animals are not eligible since they cannot consent to or understand the contract. Of course, that’s the legal argument. The more interesting argument is that there is no good reason to deny homosexuals a certain set of rights. There is, however, the good reason of allowing two harmless individuals the right to a complete and happy life.

Gov. Baldacci isn’t so sure.

And while several Democratic legislators stood with gay advocates for the announcement, Gov. John Baldacci released a statement saying he hasn’t yet made up his mind on the issue.

“This debate is extremely personal for many people, and it’s an issue that I struggle with trying to find the best path forward,” Baldacci said. “I’m not prepared to say I support gay marriage today, but I will consider what I hear as the Legislature works to find the best way to address discrimination.”

The man has made up his mind. He’s a politician, though, so he needs to be careful with what he does. Maine is in the better part of the country politically, so he does have the advantage of having a fairly liberal constituency, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of bigots, especially in the north. (To give you an idea of the northern Maine bigotry potential, Sarah Palin campaigned there due to Maine splitting its electoral votes. The McCain campaign thought they had a shot up there. They didn’t, but the fact they even tried is disconcerting.)

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Carla Hopkins and Victoria Eleftheriou, of Mount Vernon, who brought their toddler, Eli, to the Statehouse to participate in the event, said they want a secure future for their son.

“The state discriminates against his family and it affects our ability to care for him in very real ways,” Hopkins said.

For example, she said after Eli was born, they had to fight with an employer to get him covered under a health care plan, something that would have been automatic if his parents were married.

This is just one of the differences between marriage and civil unions. Aside from being insulting, they prevent parents from being able to care for their children robustly.

Bob Emrich, a Baptist pastor who leads the Maine Marriage Alliance, said he hopes for a respectful debate on the issue. The alliance wants a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

He said the gay marriage bill is “really bad for society.”

Whoa, back up the irony train. You want to be respectful? Don’t say bigoted things that aren’t true because a piece of literature claims the currently most popular god endorses that bigotry. Then you might have a shot at being respectful. Until then, you’ve done nothing to earn any respect accept insofar as a literary critic deserves respect.

“It’s changing the very foundation of our society,” he said. “It’s going to have a major impact on children. It says something about the importance, or lack of importance, of fathers and mothers.”

Yes, your god forbid children have health insurance and their parents have more complete relationships to reinforce their love. How dreadful.

First glimpse of exoplanet atmosphere

Two separate teams of scientists reported Wednesday the first-ever detection from Earth of the atmosphere of planets outside our solar system.

Taken together, the studies open a new frontier in the study of exoplanets, hard-to-detect celestial bodies circling stars beyond our own solar system.

Barely 300 exoplanets — some of which may have conditions similar to those that gave rise to life on Earth — have been identified so far, though astronomers assume that far more are waiting to be discovered.

Up to now, virtually everything known about the atmosphere of exoplanets has come from data collected by the space-based Spitzer infrared telescope.

But Spitzer will soon run out of the cryogens needed to keep its instruments cool, severely limiting its capabilities.

One team spotted a massive planet many times the size of Earth named OGLE-TR-56b, a so-called “hot Jupiter.”

Hot Jupiters are massive planets — many times the size of Earth — that orbit very close to their stars. Because they are so near, they are believed to be hot enough to emit radiation in optical and near-infrared wavelengths that would be visible from Earth.

“The successful recipe is a planet that emits a lot of heat and has little-to-no wind in its atmosphere,” said co-author Mercedes Lozez-Morales of the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C.

In addition, it must be a clear and calm night on Earth in order accurately measure the differences in thermal emissions when the exoplanet is eclipsed as it goes behind the star.

“The eclipse allows us to separate the emissions of the planet from those of the star,” she said in a statement.