AUGUSTA, Maine — More than 300 clergy members signed a letter sent to legislators and Gov. John Baldacci last week urging lawmakers to vote against LD 1020, the bill — sponsored by Dennis Damon, D-Trenton — that would allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine.
The letter, released jointly by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Maine Marriage Alliance, a coalition of Protestant clergy, was sent to counter an outreach to legislators last month by clergy in the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, which supports the bill. The coalition, made up of about 150 ministers, announced in November that it would support efforts to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The letter opposing Damon’s bill was signed by about 330 Catholic priests and ministers who support traditional marriage. It argues that the coalition’s attempt to portray “same-sex marriage as consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition” is in opposition to centuries of religious teachings.
“We, the great majority of people of faith, maintain our conviction that creating by legislative fiat parity between same-sex ‘marriage’ and the union of one man and one woman in matrimony is contrary to sacred scripture and the longstanding traditions of our shared faiths,” stated the letter, dated April 8.
The Rev. Mark Doty, pastor of Hammond Street Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Bangor and a member of the coalition, on Wednesday disagreed. He said that passage of Damon’s bill would allow families to receive important protections they now are denied because same-sex couples can’t get married.
“The point of marriage equality is to give everyone a place at the table, a chance to allow every child of God a means to be counted,” Doty said. “As a pastor of couples in longtime partnered relationships I believe this bill will grant families new freedom and fairness.”
The minister also said that sacred Scripture does not portray only what same-sex marriage opponents label “traditional marriage,” he said. The Bible also portrays polygamous and other kinds of relationships that don’t meet the modern definition of traditional marriage.
The letter opposing same-sex marriage also said that passage of Damon’s bill would have “equally compelling secular” costs and warned that “the consequences of this ill-conceived proposition run deep.”
“The future of the family and its unique role in society will be further eroded and, more importantly, the future of our children and their views on marriage will be confused for generations to come,” it concluded.
The letter did not address the provisions of LD 1118, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Fossel, R-Alna. It is a competing measure that would extend to couples on the Maine Domestic Partners Registry the same rights and benefits married couples have.
Baldacci said last month that he has not decided whether he would sign either bill if they were to pass. A hearing on both bills is scheduled to be held before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at the Augusta Civic Center.