AUGUSTA, Maine — Supporters of traditional marriage gathered Sunday night at the Augusta Civic Center to voice their opposition to a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine and a competing measure that would extend to domestic partners the same benefits married couples have.
Representatives of the Maine Family Policy Council, formerly the Christian Civic League of Maine, the Maine Jeremiah Project, Concerned Women for America of Maine and the Roman Catholic Diocese participated in the “Stand for Marriage Rally.”
“This is a national battle being fought on every front,” Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Family Resource Council, told the crowd that filled three large function rooms in the civic center. “This is a serious battle that will have repercussions for generations to come.”
Perkins served in the Louisiana House of Representatives before taking his current position. The council is an offshoot of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
About 800 people attended the first statewide event the groups opposing same-sex marriage have held together since the bill to legalize same-sex marriage was announced. The goal of the rally was to equip people who support traditional marriage to counter arguments in support of same-sex marriage, Perkins said.
“Both bills are not only bad for Maine, they are bad for the country,” Perkins said. “Marriage is not just about a bundle of benefits. It’s about training up the next generation.”
Cathryn Falwell of Gorham disagreed. She was one of about 60 clergy and lay people who support same-sex marriage and held a candlelight vigil outside the Civic Center.
“Marriage is not just about rights and privileges; it’s about love,” she said. “Who are we to say that two people of the same sex who love each other can’t be married? Their love doesn’t threaten our marriage. And we’ve been married for 30 years.”
The Rev. Mark Glovin of the First Universalist Church in Rockland said he and other clergy wanted to create a “silent witness.”
“We want people to see that there are religious people on both sides of this issue,” he said.
Michelle Truman, 52, of Hallowell volunteered to help out at the rally in support of traditional marriage.
“I’m here because marriage is the building block of society,” the communicant at St. Michael Catholic Church said. “This [campaign] is the bottom line, the point of no return. Why should we change something that’s worked so well since time began?”
Mark Reynolds, 31, held his 17-month-old daughter, Zoe Reynolds, as he waited for his wife, Rebecca Reynolds, 25, all of Waterville. The family attends New Beginnings Church of God in Waterville.
“I came to support the [marriage] amendment and to find out more about the bills,” he said. “Traditional marriage is important to society to protect kids and children. Society’s based on traditional marriage. God created the Earth and put Adam and Eve on it to procreate.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the issue spoke at the rally.
Rep. Stephen Hanley, D-Gardiner, and a member of the Knights of Columbus, urged people at the event to get involved in the campaign. He said that it was important for people to stand up for what they believe in even if it’s unpopular.
Republican House member Richard Cebra of Naples urged the crowd “to put on the armor of God.” He said that the state and nation are facing “issue overload” with the budget crisis and rising unemployment. He asked people at the event to make sure their friends, neighbors and co-workers understood the issue and why tradi-tional marriage is important.
“There is an element of selfishness in the gay rights movement in that homosexuals already have the right to form domestic partnerships,” Michael Heath, executive director of the Maine Family Policy Council, told the crowd.
“If there is not proof that same-sex marriage benefits society more than domestic partnerships, isn’t the call for same-sex marriage based on nothing more than selfishness?” he asked. “And marriage is, above all else, a matter of sexual morality. It is selfish for a vocal minority to impose its special version of immorality on the definition of marriage.”
Rep. Dennis S. Damon, D-Trenton, announced at a press conference in the State House last month that he would sponsor the same-sex marriage bill. The proposed legislation also would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
A competing bill that would extend to couples on Maine’s Domestic Partner Registry the same legal rights and benefits as married couples was introduced by Rep. Leslie Fossel, R-Alna. It is not intended to create civil unions.
Neither bill has been printed, but both are expected to be referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Supporters of traditional marriage had expected to submit a bill that would create an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. They did not find a legislator to sponsor the measure before the deadline to submit bills, but plan to introduce it in 2010.
If same-sex marriage were to become law, opponents have said they would launch a people’s veto effort and ask voters to repeal it.
Proponents of same-sex marriage on Thursday delivered valentines to legislators at the State House that included copies of the video, “The Way Life Should Be: Marriage in Maine.” The Freedom to Marry Coalition that is made up of 22 groups including Equality Maine and the Maine Civil Liberties Union sponsored the event called “We Are the Heart of Marriage in Maine.”
Over the next few weeks, Equality Maine plans to sponsor house parties around the state to talk with voters about the bill and why same-sex couples should be able to marry, Shenna Bellows, executive director of the MCLU, said Sunday.
While supporters of the marriage bill are focusing their efforts on grass-roots organizing and face-to-face conversations with friends, families and co-workers, at least two groups opposing the bill, the Maine Marriage Initiative Coalition that includes the Catholic Church and the Maine Marriage Alliance, recently have launched Web sites.
Both groups are using similar tactics including e-mail and postcard campaigns. The postcards will be returned to the coalitions on either side of the issue. Before they are mailed to legislators, both groups will gather the names and addresses of supporters for future campaigns.
In his opening prayer, Perkins said that the battle over same-sex marriage belonged to the Lord.
“This is not our battle, Lord, it is your battle,” he said. “We are simply reporting for duty.”
For information on same-sex marriage, visit the following Web sites:
For information on traditional marriage, visit the following Web sites:
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE