Friday, December 13, 2013
Maine4Marriage, one of the smaller political action committees opposing the November gay-marriage ballot question, has challenged Betsy Smith of EqualityMaine to explain the ballot question's implications for religious freedom.
"We do not know why your organization decided not to include more protection for religious freedom in your proposed law as other states have done," wrote Miriam Conners, a Topsham woman listed as principle officer of Maine4Marriage. "But if this law is adopted, that decision will result in unnecessary and divisive litigation and conflict in our state over religious freedom."
David Farmer, spokesman for Mainers United for Marriage, said Conners is mistaken and that the proposed law does explicitly provide an exemption for clergy.
The proposed law reads: "This chapter does not require any member of the clergy to perform or any church, religious denomination or other religious institution to host any marriage in violation of the religious beliefs of that member of the clergy, church, religious denomination or other religious institution. The refusal to perform or host a marriage under this subsection cannot be the basis for a lawsuit or liability and does not affect the tax-exempt status of the church, religious denomination or other religious institution."
Farmer said the law also protects places of worship from being sued if they do not want to rent a church hall to a same-sex couple.
"That is an explicit new exemption that would be added to Maine law," he said.
In a letter to Smith, Conners cited experts quoted in the book "Banned in Boston: The Coming Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty." Among the experts quoted are Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Chai Feldbaum, a former Georgetown Law School professor and member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The group describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonreligious citizen-based organization committed to defending marriage in Maine. The group had raised $312 as of the June 2 campaign finance reporting deadline.