Religious Leaders in Maine Use Bible for Marriage Equality
By Brittny Drye
With marriage equality support growing in Maine, the argument that is seemingly standing in the way, as in most states, is religion. However, a group of religious leaders in the northeastern state are hoping to reverse the faith-based argument.
The Religious Coalition Against Discrimination gathered in Saco on Tuesday for a conference with southern Maine pastors, rabbis and others. They feel voters who swung the election against gay marriage three years ago are “conflicted persons of faith,” having people in the social circle who are gay, or are friendly with their lesbian neighbor, yet do not feel they have a right to marry.
“It’s important to have conversations with people of faith,” said the Rev. Marvin Ellison, coalition president. “Particularly those of us who support marriage equality, because of our faith and values, not in spite of it.”
Voters will be asked once again in November whether they want to allow same-sex couples to get married. “The fight for swing voters will be key for opponents, who were successful in repealing a state law in 2009 that allowed gay marriage,” says Carroll Conley, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine.
He goes on to explain how people are picking and choosing how they interpret the Bible, selecting a social side and then using the Bible to as a defense.
During two days of conferences, the statewide network of clergy supportive of civil rights discussed how to reach out to swing voters who voted against same-sex marriage in 2009, and, ironically, they’re turning to the Bible, the very weapon their opponents are using.
The Rev. Benjamin Shambaugh of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Portland, said his interpretation of the Bible is consistent with his support of gay marriage.
“It’s important to see the Bible as something that can support all people,” he said. “The God I read about in the Bible is the God of justice.”
During the Saco conference, faith leaders talked about how they’ve handled the issue, whether by giving sermons from the pulpit or by being more politically active, going as far as refusing to sign marriage licenses to heterosexual couples until same-sex couples are given the same rights, as Rev. Christina Sillari of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland is doing. Now the question is, how to convince larger groups.
“How do we get to people who don’t even go to church?” asks Sillari.
Hopefully the answer will come before November.
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