Maine State Senator Dennis Damon has introduced a bill in the state Legislature entitled “An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom.” Writes Senator Damon, “This bill will allow couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, to marry and to enjoy the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage as do married couples now. The bill respects and thus retains the religious freedoms now held and does not require religions opposed to same-sex marriages to sanction those marriages.”
The Herald Gazette of Camden and Rockland, Maine, published on Saturday an article, "Midcoast clergy respond to Damon's same-sex marriage bill" and among those interviewed was a local ELCA pastor.
Nativity Lutheran Church in Rockland is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "The policy of the ELCA at this time is that we recognize marriage as between a man and a woman," Pastor Jerry LiaBraaten said Thursday.Even in the light of New England Synod Bishop Margaret Payne's communications here and here from 3 years ago, we're surprised to learn that the ELCA has a same-sex blessing rite since officials keep insisting otherwise. We're hoping the reporter didn't quite understand Pastor LiaBraaten.
LiaBraaten said the ELCA has a service or liturgy of blessing of same-sex couples. "We cannot solemnize a relationship but we can offer a blessing," he said. While there have been no such blessing ceremonies in Maine, he said he is open to performing one.
"I would visit with the couple to determine their hopes and dreams and to see if this was a long-term commitment, just as I would with any couple," he said. "Then I would visit with the church council and agree on an approach."
One of the questions that would need to be discussed is whether to make the ceremony a private or public event.
"I would support it and agree with the public nature," he said, adding that such occasions are good for the community. He said his sect only considers baptism and Communion as sacraments, that marriage is called a rite in the Lutheran Church, and that he prefers all such events to be done with the witness of the community.
Personally, LiaBraaten said, he has no objection to giving same-sex couples the rights, privileges and responsibilities of those in traditional marriages. "They ought to be the same whether gay, lesbian or straight," he said.
But if not, where can we see this service? How long is "a long-term commitment?" And is the ELCA aptly described as a sect?