A candlelight protest vigil lit the way
for people attending a rally against gay marriage in Maine, reports
the Morning Sentinel.
An estimated 1,000 people gathered
Sunday for the Stand for Marriage Rally at the Augusta Civic Center
to show their opposition to a gay marriage bill being debated in the
Maine Legislature. About 60 protesters lined the walkway leading
into the building holding candles.
At a press conference last month,
Democratic Senator Dennis S. Damon announced that he would introduce
the gay marriage bill surrounded by members of several prominent gay
groups – including Equality Maine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union,
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, and the Maine Women's Lobby
– and gay and lesbian couples wishing to marry.
Maine lawmakers passed a bill in 2004
to extend domestic partnerships to both gay and straight couples,
putting the state in the category of states that offer some legal
protections to gay and lesbian couples.
The state's registry grants few
guaranteed protections beyond estate planning, but gives gay couples
a legal footing when asking for benefits from the private sector.
Tony Perkins, president of the
Washington D.C.-based Christian Family Research Council, was the
headline speaker at the event.
“We care about families and children
in Maine, and the protesters,” Perkins told the audience. “Those
folks trying to redefine marriage are not our enemies.” Perkins
said the gay marriage debate is a nationwide battle.
Michael Heath of the Maine Family
Policy Council, which is backed by James Dobson's Colorado
Springs-based Focus on the Family, took a harsher view of proponents
of the gay marriage bill.
He said gay marriage was more about
imposing immorality on the institution of marriage, and that gay
rights advocates were seeking special rights.
“There is an element of selfishness
in the gay rights movement in that homosexuals already have the right
to form domestic partnerships,” Heath said. “It is selfish for a
vocal minority to impose its special version of immorality on the
definition of marriage.”
“We are for equal rights, not special
rights,” he later added.
Last week, gay marriage supporters
passed out Valentine's Day cards to lawmakers and urged them to back
Gay activists have mounted a six state
strategy to win gay marriage for the entire New England region by
2012. Legislation to provide for gay marriage is being introduced
this year in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island. Gay and
lesbian couples can currently marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut.