Recently, more than 120 religious leaders from across the state issued a statement urging Mainers to end marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.
Why would clergy like myself support equal marriage? Because it is good, right and fair. I believe in the value of marriage. Good marriages benefit the entire community. The legal institution of marriage promotes family stability and cohesiveness. Marriage promotes financial security, long-term commitment and faithfulness. I believe these are good things. They are good for straight families and they are good for gay families.
And so this is a very conservative case for marriage equality. Marriage promotes family values that should be available to all families, not just straight families.
These are our family values: in our family everyone is valued.
According to the Nov. 19 BDN, Bishop Richard Malone, Maine’s Catholic bishop and an opponent of marriage equality, declared that “the ability and obligation to procreate” is an essential part of marriage, and without this component marriage is “meaningless.” I strongly disagree with the good bishop. My wife and I have been married for 29 years. Our marriage has produced no children, and we are now beyond our child-bearing years. Yet our marriage is not meaningless, despite the bishop’s insensitive words. My marriage and my relationship with my wife are the most meaningful part of my life. And hundreds of other childless couples in Maine have meaningful marriages, too.
There are those who say we should not redefine marriage. But we have redefined marriage before, and I say thank God we have done so!
According to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That was a traditional marriage, but we don’t do that anymore. Not so long ago it was legal for a man to beat his wife. That was traditional marriage, too.
As recently as 1967 there were 16 states in which it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person. Yes, the marriage of the parents of the president-elect of the United States was illegal in 16 states.
My older brother, who died recently, was in an interracial marriage, and they had two wonderful children who are now adults. Yet their marriage would have been illegal if we had not redefined marriage.
Moreover, before the American Civil War, marriages between slaves were not recognized under the laws of the United States. That allowed the slave-owner to sell the husband to one person, sell the wife to another and sell the children to someone else. We did not recognize slave marriages because we did not value the people we enslaved.
Thank God we have redefined marriage!
There will be some who say the Bible condemns homosexuality. There are 35,526 verses in the Bible. By my count only eight are about homosexuality, making this one of the very smallest issues in the Bible. So if you are prejudiced against lesbians and gays and go looking for Bible verses that, when taken out of context, confirm your prejudice, you will be able to find a few.
But according to the biblical record, Jesus himself never criticized homosexuals. He did, however, criticize self-righteous religious people who judged and condemned others. He said, “Judge not, so you will not be judged.” He said, “He that is without sin should cast the first stone.” And he said, “Remove the log from your own eye before you try to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye.”
My faith teaches me to love my neighbor and to treat others the way I wish to be treated. Under current Maine law, gay and lesbian residents are not treated as I am treated, because I have the right to marry and they don’t. My marriage brings great meaning and joy to my life, and I believe that others should have the same benefits available to them.
The Rev. Mark Worth is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Castine. He lives in Penobscot.