Film Review: Question One

Sincere, moving entry about the battle for same-sex marriage.

Question One covers the battle that began in May 2009, when the state of Maine granted marriage rights to same-sex couples. In November, a referendum calling for repeal named Question One was placed on the election ballot. Documentarians Joe Fox and James Nubile tell the story from both sides of the campaign, attempting to be objective, although one can clearly feel where their support lies.

The cameras focus on meetings in churches, offices and private homes, as we are made aware of the deep-seated passion this issue arouses in voters in largely rural settings. We meet “Yes on One” proselytizers like Marc Mutty, co-chairman of the campaign, who emerges as the most complex figure here, emotionally conflicted about his diocese-ordered position. There’s also the Reverend Bob Emmerich and Linda Seavey, one of his parishioners, who has a pit bull determination as she canvases door-to-door support for her cause. We learn that her faction must put up with the inconvenience of having their “Vote Yes on One” signs removed from their lawns, and that skunk urine is an effective deterrent to such actions. All of them make a point of reiterating that they are not necessarily anti-homosexual so much as they are concerned with upholding the traditional, Bible-fed concept of marriage between opposite sexes, which may strike viewers as being a queasy but nonetheless still bigoted, camouflaging copout. At one point, it is idiotically, if complacently, stated that gays are indeed free to marry, as long as it’s to someone of the opposite sex.

On the other side of the ballot are Darlene Huntress and Sarah Dowling, lesbians who both make a strong human case for voting “No.” They’re moving, describing their unquenchable love for their respective partners, and Dowling is particularly so when she recounts having to explain her particular family set-up to her little adopted Asian daughter, Maya.

Question One is a sincere, thoughtful, if not the most elegantly made documentary, which manages to pull you in emotionally and intellectually. It’s striking in the fact that both sides seem to be equally religious, loving their hymns and communal congregating. I do wish, however, that if there is a God, He or She would send a message to indie documentarians that the use of excessive, mediocre music only weakens their work, whatever they support. At moments, the Muzak becomes so deafening, you can’t hear what is being said onscreen.

On Nov. 3, 2009, Question One passed, devastatingly, keeping gay marriage illegal in Maine.