Around 300 B.C., the Greek dramatist Menander wrote something that, roughly translated, reads, “Marriage, to tell the truth, is an evil, but it is a necessary evil.”

That probably explains why gay men and lesbians are so eager to engage in the practice. Having been forced by federal, state and local governments to suffer under onerous mandates such as paying taxes, wearing seatbelts, not smoking on public beaches, and deciding whether to support Democratic incumbent Mike Michaud or Republican challenger Kevin Raye for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2012, the homosexual population of Maine feels it has paid its dues and should now be forced by law to bear the burden of matrimony.

Also, getting married would lower their taxes, supply someone to remind them to buckle up and give them a companion to blame for that smoldering butt on the beach. Unfortunately, it won’t help much in sorting out the dreadful choice between Michaud and Raye.

As a matter of fairness, it seems reasonable to extend the opportunity for wedded bliss to same-sex couples, if only to demonstrate that we demand they share in the agony. If most Mainers thought about it in this way — even the ones who don’t like gays — they’d support the new effort to put a marriage equality measure on the ballot next year.

“We have to change hearts and minds,” Betsey Smith, executive director of Equality Maine proclaimed at the campaign kickoff in Lewiston last month. She didn’t mention the necessary-evil thing, but it might have been implied.

Smith should be more upfront about Menander’s insight. A lot of people who voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, when a state law allowing the practice was repealed by a People’s Veto, claimed publicly they had nothing against homosexuals. They just didn’t want them marrying — or  adopting, teaching, kissing in public or suing anyone who discriminated against them. They were OK with them paying taxes and wearing seatbelts, mixed on the smoking ban on public beaches and as confused as the rest of us about the Michaud-Raye dilemma.

The point is: They don’t like gays.

Therefore, they ought to be all on board with any effort to persecute them by allowing same-sexers to be legally bound to smothering, jealous, unreasonable and argumentative spouses, who have made no effort to keep up their appearance and haven’t cooked a meal or cleaned the house since the wedding day.

You’d think promoting same-sex marriage would be at the top of the homophobes’ agenda.

The law they’d oppose would be same-sex divorce.

According to recent polls, about 53 percent of Maine voters support weighing down gays and lesbians with the ol’ ball and chain, while just 47 percent are against the idea. Organizers of the referendum drive seem buoyed by those figures, apparently having forgotten that surveys before the ’09 vote showed a similar margin of victory. On election day, the numbers flipped, and the marriage-rights law went down to defeat by about 33,000 votes out of more than 568,000 cast.

To make sure that doesn’t happen again, Equality Maine has pledged to change the minds of 15,000 opponents. (That figure seems to be a little off, possibly because we don’t require gay people to take an extra year of high school math the way we do straights.)

Anyway, I’ve got the perfect subject for their first conversion:

Gov. Paul LePage.

Deep in his heart and mind, LePage favors marriage equality. He stated that clearly during an interview with the Pine Tree Politics website early in last year’s campaign.

“I don’t believe the state should be in the marriage business,” LePage said, later adding, “If you want to have a marriage, we’ll leave that up to the churches. So, I go one step further than many because I say if you’re going to get married by the state, it’s a civil union, period. Whether you’re a homosexual, lesbian, heterosexual. Everybody. That way everybody gets the same legal standing.”

LePage indicated that religious denominations should decide for themselves whether to sanction same-sex unions as marriages, which seems to indicate gays and lesbians could wed in some churches.

As usual, LePage’s staff had to later explain that their candidate didn’t know what he was talking about. In subsequent interviews, LePage dodged the issue by saying things like, “government should not be involved in redefining marriage,” which had the advantage of being both consistent with his previous opinion and wildly misleading.

It’s time for the governor to come out of the closet, so to speak, and admit he’s for equality, whether at the justice of the peace’s office or the altar. LePage needs to overcome mere politics and say what he believes. But given his conservative base, that shift is likely to provoke some blowback.

LePage should calm the rabid right-wingers by explaining that it’s not a special right he favors, it’s a necessary evil.

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