2012-10-26 / Community

Panel hosts same-sex marriage discussion

By Tracy Orzel
Staff Writer


The Rev. Don Rudalevige addresses participants at a same-sex marriage panel discussion held Sunday, Oct. 21 at Christ Church in Kennebunk. “No one takes their position because of scripture,” said Rudalevige. “People use it to support what they believe.” About 25 people attended the event held in advance of the referendum Mainers will be voting on Nov. 6. (Tracy Orzel photo) The Rev. Don Rudalevige addresses participants at a same-sex marriage panel discussion held Sunday, Oct. 21 at Christ Church in Kennebunk. “No one takes their position because of scripture,” said Rudalevige. “People use it to support what they believe.” About 25 people attended the event held in advance of the referendum Mainers will be voting on Nov. 6. (Tracy Orzel photo) KENNEBUNK – Three ministers, two lesbians and a school program coordinator walk into the fellowship hall at Christ Church of Kennebunk.

This isn’t the beginning of a joke. The five people were on a panel discussion of same-sex marriage in Maine.

Approximately 25 members of the Kennebunk community attended a discussion Sunday, Oct. 21 featuring: the Rev. Don Rudalevige, a retired United Methodist minister; the Rev. Jim Anderson, a minister with The Reformed Church of America; Jennifer Clapp, cocoordinator of school-based programming at Caring Unlimited; and Sarah Dowling and Linda Wolfe, a lesbian couple from Freeport.

The panel was led by the Rev. Allison C.G. Smith, interim pastor at Christ Church.

Although the topic of same-sex marriage has been a contentious issue for communities and families across the country, the panel was unanimously in favor of voting “yes” on Question 1, the referendum that, if passed, would allow same-sex marriage licenses to be issued in Maine. The question will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Although most attendees appeared to be in favor of passing gay marriage in Maine, Smith said there were a few present who opposed, but declined to identify them.

Each member of the panel reflected on their own personal experiences and beliefs relating to same-sex partnerships.

“There’s not a whole lot of text about marriage one way or the other” in the Bible, said Anderson.

He said that when reading the Bible, the reader must keep in mind that it was “written by people who lived in a particular time, in a particular place and that’s going to color the words they used.”

Dowling and Wolfe spoke about their experiences as a couple trying to navigate the law. Dowling and Wolfe have been married for 16 years and have an 11- year-old adopted daughter, though the marriage is not recognized in Maine.

Dowling asked the audience if they knew how many rights and benefits straight couples receive.

“If you are straight and you can legally marry in your state and federally, you get over 1,000 benefits,” said Dowling who added that Maine’s domestic partnership laws provide only seven.

After each panelist spoke, 10 minutes were allotted for questions and discussion.

Most of the questions from the audience revolved around present Maine laws affecting same-sex couples and what the same-sex marriage referendum Mainers will be voting on Nov. 6 means.

Attendee Skip Clark said he had no idea what he was “limping in to.” Clark who uses two walking sticks after getting a hip replacement, said he attended because he knew the discussion would be interesting. Clark asked the panel what is the root of the dissension over same-sex marriage.

“We pass something, then we vote against it and then we’re passing it again, maybe, and on and on,” said Clark, to which Rudalevige said he believes there is a fear of change derived from the exponential social and media changes that have taken place over the last few decades.

Dick Cadmus admitted he was taught as a young boy to oppose same-sex relationships, until he “started to look at people as people.”

Comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement were drawn on several occasions during the discussion.

Joan Cowgill said she, too, has changed the way she “looked at things” over the years, and added that she thinks tradition plays a large part in molding one’s perspective on social issues.

“I was a kid in the 40s and 50s and it was a certain way,” said Cowgill. “I remember living in Bangor, Maine and there was an airbase there and I was just this little kid seeing this black man walk down the street with a white woman and I could not believe it, and how many years later it’s just very common.”

“It’s making more sense to me how I’ve evolved,” Cowgill added.

Virginia Cole believes same-sex partners should have the same rights as heterosexual partners, but said she thinks it should be called something other than marriage. “Just use different wording,” Cole said.

Smith said the discussion was a new step for the church.

“This church is an open and affirming church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and has taken a public stand on that,” said Smith. “I think it’s an issue where people really need to reflect so we were trying to have a safe space for people to do that.”

Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at www.post.mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top