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Maine Religious Leaders Mobilize Around Gay Marriage - On Both Sides of the Issue

Soon after the November elections and the dispiriting setbacks for gay marriage equality in California, Arizona, and Florida, a group of religious leaders in Maine formed a coalition to advocate for gay marriage rights and actively seek equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples within Maine law.  The group, Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, includes 120 clergy from across the state and 14 different faith traditions, including United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, Congregational, and the United Church of Christ.

In addition to articulating the moral argument for gay marriage rights - Maine law defines marriage as between a man and a woman but the Constitution is currently mute on the matter - the coalition cited the adverse effects of discrimination against gay and lesbian couples on children and the family unit.  For instance, children in same-sex couples may lack health care and other benefits extended to children of married parents.  In related news, the state's leading gay and lesbian rights organization, EqualityMaine, has not yet decided whether to submit a bill that would allow same-sex marriage, despite reporting that a majority of new state lawmakers support extending the legal rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

In response, on Tuesday, a smaller group of ministers and lay people announced a new coalition to oppose both gay marriage and civil unions in Maine.  Alongside hackneyed and pseudo-religious/tradition based arguments opposing marriage equality, the new Maine Marriage Alliance announced its goal to amend the state Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. The coalition urged outreach to Catholic and Mormon churches and is already in touch with clergy in California who gained slim voter approval of Proposition 8, which revises the state Constitution to ban gay marriage in the state and overturn a Supreme Court ruling allowing same-sex marriage.  

Glimmers of Hope for Gay Marriage and Other Rights: The fate of California's Proposition 8 is in doubt, despite narrowly passing voters by roughly a 52 to 48 margin in November.  The State Supreme Court recently announced it will hear three lawsuits arguing that Proposition 8 was illegally brought to the voters. To support the suits, progressive legislators introduced a resolution opposing Proposition 8 and reiterating the lawsuit arguments that Prop 8 amounts to an improper revision of the state Constitution because it did not receive two-thirds legislator approval before going to the voters - which is required for ballot initiatives that would radically revise - rather than amend - the state Constitution.

And in Florida, a circuit-court judge recently ruled unconstitutional a three-decade old state law banning gays and lesbians from adopting children. The state already says it will challenge the ruling. Still, this provides hope for gay and lesbian couples who want to adopt children and provide a stable home for needy children.  With recent voter-approval in Arkansas of a measure banning foster parenting and adoption by unmarried couples - effectively denying gays and lesbians the option to adopt - adoption may become a new battleground in the on-going fight for equal treatment under the law for gay and lesbian Americans.


Resources

EqualityMaine - Marriage Equality
Sacramento Bee - Proposition 8: Special Section