Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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.Tweet
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John Richardson joined the Press Herald in 1990 after working as a reporter in New Jersey. He has covered a variety of beats, including marine issues, the environment and health care. He is now covering politics and focusing on Maine's U.S. Senate race.
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Colin Woodard has covered politics and elections for more than two decades, from Bosnia and Bucharest to Washington, D.C., Augusta, and Portland City Hall. He has written for a wide range of national and international publications and is the author of four books, including "American Nations," a history of North America's regional cultures. He joined the Portland Press Herald at the end of April and covers political finance and lobbying, among other things.
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Susan Cover has covered Maine politics for 10 years and worked in Kansas, Ohio and Rhode Island as a reporter. This year, she is focusing on covering the same-sex marriage debate for MaineToday Media.
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Michael Shepherd joined MaineToday Media in May 2012 after graduating from the University of Maine in Orono, where he edited The Maine Campus, the student newspaper there. Until November he'll be writing the Truth Test, a recurring feature analyzing political statements and advertising.
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