Tuesday September 18, 2012 | 03:42 PM

Faith leaders will be in Portland Wednesday for a press conference to talk about the religious exemption that's part of Question 1, the ballot measure asking Maine voters if they want to allow same-sex couples to marry in Maine.

The Religious Coalition Against Discrimination and Catholics for Marriage Equality will be at the Cathedral of St. Luke at 2 p.m. to talk about the right of clergy to refuse to perform gay marriages.

"Clergy of all denominations are free to refuse to marry couples for many personal or philosophical reasons," said Bishop Stephen T. Lane of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine. "Question 1 affirms that right in Maine law."

Gay-marriage supporters fought hard earlier this year to get the religious exemption language into the question that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. Secretary of State Charlie Summers did not add it in, despite the heavy lobbying from the activists. The ballot question simply reads: "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?"

And while the proposed state law provides for a religious exemption for clergy, it does not protect business owners or others from possible discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to provide services to gay couples.

Opponents have consistently pointed to a recent settlement in Vermont where inn owners who refused to host a lesbian wedding were required to pay $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the couple and the Vermont Civil Liberties Union. The inn owners also had to promise not to host any wedding functions -- gay or straight -- from now on.

The requirement to provide equal services to all couples regardless of sexual orientation was put into Maine law in 2005, when voters approved adding gays and lesbians to the state's human rights act. Regardless of the outcome in November, it's not a new requirement.

However, if it's approved, businesses that provide wedding-related services will be faced with a new spate of gay and lesbian customers.

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Open Season is your guide to the 2014 campaign. Our team of political writers has its sights set on Maine’s major elections, from the Blaine House to the U.S. Capitol.

Steve Mistler is covering the 2014 governor's race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.
Steve can be reached at 791-6345 or smistler@pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @stevemistler

Eric Russell is covering Independent Eliot Cutler during the 2014 governor's race. He is a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald.
Eric can be reached at 791-6344 or erussell@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @pphericrussell

Matt Byrne is covering Republican Paul LePage during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Falmouth, Cumberland, North Yarmouth, Yarmouth and Freeport for the Portland Press Herald.
Matt can be reached at 791-6303 or mbyrne@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @mattbyrnePPH

Randy Billings is covering Democrat Mike Michaud during the 2014 governor's race. He covers Portland City Hall for the Portland Press Herald.
Randy can be reached at 791-6346 or rbillings@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @randybillings

Kevin Miller is covering Maine's U.S. Senate race and 1st Congressional District race. He covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@pressherald.com
On Twitter: @kevinmillerdc

Michael Shepherd is covering Maine's 2nd Congressional District race. He is a news and State House reporter for the Kennebec Journal.
Michael can be reached at 621-5632 or mshepherd@centralmaine.com
On Twitter: @mikeshepherdME

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