BANGOR -– Religious leaders across the state held news conferences today to urge Mainers to end marriage discrimination against same-sex couples.

“We feel a moral obligation at this pivotal time to raise our voices on behalf of Mainers who are denied that most basic human right—the right to marry and form a family with the person of their choice,” said the Rev. Mark Doty, pastor at the Hammond Street Congregational Church, where a press conference was held.

Doty announced that more than 120 religious leaders from 14 different faith traditions across Maine, have formed the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine

The timing of the press conference coincided with the beginning of marriages for same sex couples in Connecticut on Wednesday, Doty said, and a celebration next week of the fifth anniversary of the Massa-chusetts court case that allowed gay marriage in that state.

Doty said that coalition members share a concern for the children of same-sex couples in Maine harmed by their parents’ exclusion from marriage. Children in these families may lack health benefits and other critical protections that would extend to married parents, he said.

Members also point out that committed gay and lesbian partners who have loved and cared for each other for decades often still feel vulnerable in old age because they cannot marry and safeguard their relationships with the protections marriage gives non-gay couples.