Many citizens have stepped up to the mike today before a legislative committee hearing in Augusta, Maine, making cases for and against LD 1020, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. I have been most impressed by the words of Reverend Mark Worth and Rabbi Hillel Katzir. You can read the entire transcript of their remarks here; I’d like to highlight the sections of both men’s speeches in which they manage to meet F. Scott Fitzgerald’s old challenge by holding two ideas simultaneously in their minds. First, they address the claim by religious conservatives that “people of faith” demand discrimination against gay and lesbian people when it comes to marriage. Katzir and Worth reply by example, demonstrating that they are not only religious people but religious leaders, leaders of religious communities that embrace marriage equality. Second, having nullified the claim that religious people are unified on the issue, they each move on to note that arguments based in religion have no place before the Maine state legislature. The legislature’s job is to make a decision of law based on the principles in American political life and history of expanding equality under law.
Rev. Mark Worth:
We are Baptists, Lutherans and Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, Unitarian Universalists and Swedenborgians, Jews, Native Americans, Quakers and clergy of the United Church of Christ, and I apologize to those who I may have left out; these are to name just a few. We lead congregations in Dexter and Rockland, Alfred and Auburn, Hancock and Limestone, Fort Kent and Fryeburg and all of the places in between.
What unites us is our unwavering support for equal legal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Some of our members are offering written testimony, and as of today 166 Maine religious leaders have signed our declaration in support of marriage equality. A few of them are here today. In my own religious tradition, we believe that love is the most holy and universal of bonds. Love should be judged not by the gender of its partners, but by the mutuality and tenderness of its expression.
We recognize that there is passionate debate about Biblical interpretation and about whether marriage between same-sex partners should be given religious approval. We are here to bear witness that many religious leaders and religious communities honor and bless the love and marriage of same-sex partners. But your job today is not to settle ecclesiastical disputes, but rather to ensure justice and fairness for all Maine citizens, without favor or prejudice.
Rabbi Hillel Katzir:
Gay men and lesbians, like the rest of us, are created in the image of God, and God said it’s not good for any human being to be alone. In that case, I look at this issue and I think, “Who am I, who are we as a human society, to tell people that they have to live alone or live a lie?” As a Rabbi, as a person of faith, I believe it is a God-given right for each one of us to make family with whomever we choose.
I know that there are some religious people who are telling this committee that God is opposed to gay marriage. Well, first of all I would suggest that anyone who purports to know the mind of God is treading on potentially dangerous ground. If we could define God, if we could understand God, it wouldn’t be God anymore. But also, as Reverend Worth said a moment ago on behalf of the Religious Coalition, such testimony to this committee is as irrelevant as my testimony that I believe God would favor this bill. Whether or not gay marriage is religiously the right thing or the wrong thing? That’s for each of us to decide as individuals, but under our constitution, it’s not for the state to decide between different religious views of legislation.
Before I was a Rabbi, I was an attorney, and as a recovering attorney I also see this as a civil rights issue, and that’s something that is very much in the role of the state to decide. There was a time when many states told men and women of different colors that they could not join together to create a family. It wasn’t natural, some people said; it wasn’t the way things were meant to be, they said. I’m very proud of my country that we have realized so many ways in which we have discriminated against our fellow citizens and have been wrong, and we have changed that, as we have most recently demonstrated by electing a biracial person as president. As a nation we have learned that people are equal even as they are different. If two men or two women want to form a stable family, I submit that it is very much in the interest of the state to encourage such stable, loving families.
If their words strike a chord with you, read their full remarks here.