Protesters take aim at bill for gay marriage

Posted April 18, 2009, at 6:06 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Nine men who identified themselves as members of a Pennsylvania-based group that supports traditional family values demonstrated Saturday afternoon near the Bangor Mall against a gay marriage bill now being considered by the Maine Legislature.

Bearing red banners with gold lion insignias — some of the organization’s emblems — the men from the Catholic-affiliated American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, or TFP, carried signs, chanted slogans and included a bagpiper playing over the sounds of traffic on busy Stillwater Avenue. The group travels to states where same-sex marriage legislation is being considered.

The bill, backed by more than 60 legislators, would repeal a state law that limits marriage to a man and a woman. If passed, it would authorize marriage between any two people and recognize same-sex marriage in other states where it is legal.

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Some of the Pennsylvania group’s signs read, “Honk for Traditional Marriage.”

“We see the importance of traditional marriage to preserve the family,” said Ben Hiegert, 28, who serves as the group’s secretary-treasurer. “That’s very important and fundamental to our society. When you put something that’s not marriage as something on the same level as marriage, it weakens the whole idea of marriage.”

Hiegert said reaction from the public in Maine to the group’s message has been mostly positive.

“Overall it’s been very, very favorable, especially once we get up to Augusta and here as well,” Hiegert said. “We were really impressed. They were probably some of the most favorable cities we’ve done. There have been a lot of honks and a lot of people who have stopped and gotten out [of their cars].”

The group, who spent about two hours in its location at the traffic light leading to the new Home Depot building, got both honks from supporters and hoots from dissenters who rolled down their vehicle windows.

Bangor was the last stop this week for the Hanover, Pa., group, which is made up partially of college students on spring vacation. The group was in Portland on Thursday and in Augusta on Friday. The men also made stops in New Hampshire cities Concord, Manchester and Nashua. Bills allowing same-sex marriage are up for consideration in New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey.

Vermont recently became the fourth state after Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa to allow gay marriage.

The Maine Legislature’s Judiciary Committee will hold a daylong public hearing on the bill on Wednesday, April 22, at the Augusta Civic Center.

Hiegert, who is a full-time employee of the group, said the organization has 60 full-time volunteers.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

990-8287

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