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Gay Marriage Issue: Maine Business Owners Stand on Principles
11/01/2012   Reported By: Jennifer Mitchell

In less than a week, voters will again be faced with the question of whether Maine ought to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. In early 2009, the Maine Legislature said "Yes," but a majority of Mainers said "No" in a referendum question later that same year. This time, voters will be asked whether the state of Maine should issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Yesterday we heard from Yes on One supporter, state Rep. Stacey Fitts. Today, we hear from the owners of a small business in central Maine, who say their principles and livelihoods could be affected by the outcome of the vote. Jennifer Mitchell has more.

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Gay Marriage Issue: Maine Business Owners Princi Listen
 Duration:
3:30

You may have heard this "Yes On One" ad featuring a wedding photographer who is looking forward to a potential windfall should same-sex marriage be legalized in maine.

Photographer in ad: "One thing it will do is give me more weddings to shoot, and in this economy that is great news."

The wedding photographer in the ad says passing same-sex marriage won't lead to legal battles. But Linisa Beal disagrees, and she's in the same line of work.

"I was like, that's a really bad reason to say 'yes' or 'no,' Linisa Beal says. "You know, whatever you vote on, it's not really about you. You think about it as a society that, yeah, we'll be persecuted. We'll be persecuted for this inteview, but God provides. He gives us what we need."

Linisa and Brent Beal have a "NO On One" placard in their yard - not far from the vehicle that displays their business name and logo, Beal Family Photography, in the town of Hermon, near Bangor. The couple specializes in shooting the "keepsake" moments of life - newborn babies, teens in their prom dresses, families together, even pet portraits.

And they do weddings. But if, on Nov. 7, the state has chosen to approve same-sex marriage, they say they won't be compromising their principles for the sake of their business.

"If a gay couple comes and asks to be photographed, I would - kindly - tell them, 'I'm sorry. My faith, my belief, doesn't allow me to do that,'" Brent Beal says. "It says in the Bible, in Joshua Chapter 24:15, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' That's the stand that we take."

And it's a stand that could get them in trouble with Maine's anti-discrimination laws. "Everyone in this country has freedom of belief, but you're not allowed to use those beliefs as an excuse for discrimination," says Zachary Heiden, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Maine added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination statues in 2005. "When businesses open themselves up to the public, they have to serve the whole public," Heiden says. They can't turn away people on the basis of race or because they suffer from a disability, or because of their sexual orientation."

But the Beals say that regardless of the potential legal and financial consequences, they will continue to oppose same-sex marriage. They say it's about the fundamentals of Christian belief, which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

"Nobody can take that away from me," says Brent Beal. "They can take everything they want away. They can take my business away. They can take my house away. They can take - take everything - my wife, my children, everything. But what I believe in is inside of me. They can't take that away."

"We came into this world with nothing," says Linisa Beal. "You're never going to see a U-Haul behind a hearse, so you're pretty sure you're not taking it out with you. And it's - none of it matters. This is not what matters. It's a blip. This is a blip in the road. This whole thing."

Despite their convictions, the Beals both say they believe that the ballot question will probably pass this time. And they say they're hoping that same-sex couples will not "target" them or their business, now that they have come out in opposition to the same-sex question.

Another local business, Treworgy Orchards in Levant, generated pages of controversy on Facebook when the business owners put a "No on One" sign in their yard, prompting outrage from some who said that they would never have spent their money there if they had known how the business owners felt about same-sex marriage.

Treworgy Orchards has since removed their "No on One" sign after apologizing for having caused offense to some customers. But for the Beals, they say the "law of God" trumps the law of the land. And they're not taking their sign down until the election is over.



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