AUGUSTA, Maine — Religious leaders who support a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine held a breakfast meeting with about 25 legislators Tuesday at the Senator Inn.
The breakfast, sponsored by the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, was not open to the media but featured a panel discussion that included clergy who are Jewish, American Baptist, Episcopalian, Congregational (United Church of Christ) and United Methodist, according to a press release.
The coalition is made up of more than 150 clergy from 14 faith traditions. The group announced support for same-sex marriage in November, more than two months before Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Trenton, held a press conference to say that he would sponsor a bill to change the law.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to talk to members of the Legislature about why we as clergy members see that marriage equality is very much in keeping with our faith traditions,” the Rev. Marvin Ellison, a professor at Bangor Theological Seminary, said at a press conference after the breakfast.
“As a Christian theologian, I support marriage equality because I take the Bible seriously,” said Ellison, an ordained Presbyterian minister who lives in Portland. “Denying marriage to loving, committed adult same-sex couples is based on the sinful assumption that gay men and lesbians are not made in the image of God and do not deserve full equality under the law.”
Marc Mutty, director of the public policy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, did not attend the meeting but said that the current discussion about same-sex marriage should not be about religion.
“This isn’t a religious issue and they’re trying to make it one,” he said. “Fundamentally, this issue involves the greater good of society. Religious and faith groups can make their own decisions about whom they marry. They already are guaranteed that in the Constitution.”
The Maine Catholic diocese opposes the bill. Last week, the Maine Marriage Initiative, to which the diocese belongs, sent out 30,000 postcards urging voters to oppose bill.
Anne Underwood, a Topsham lawyer, who is a Catholic and on the board of the Maine Council of Churches, spoke in support of the bill at the breakfast, according to the Religious Coalition’s press release. She did not speak at the press conference. Efforts to reach her Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.
Rep. Jim Martin, D-Bangor, who is a co-sponsor of Damon’s bill and attended the breakfast, said that it was important for lawmakers to hear from men and women who support same-sex marriage from a position of faith.
“I think that in this discussion,” Martin said over the noon hour, “religion often enters into the debate. Those who oppose the bill, often cite religious reasons. It’s important that those who come to a different conclusion based on faith share that with legislators.”
A hearing before the Judiciary Committee on An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom is scheduled to be held at 9 a.m. Friday, April 24, at Cony High School in Augusta.