I am a citizen of the state of Maine. I am a Christian. I am gay. I am a minister. I am a father. I am a grandfather.

I believe marriage between two people is a sacred commitment. I believe family and friends should have the opportunity to share in life celebrations of their family members, without ridicule or distain.

As a Christian clergyperson, I am utterly grateful for the Pentecostal faith in Aroostook County, where I was reared all my growing years. It was there that I was taught Jesus loved me when I thought I was an unlovable child.

It was there that I found a sanctuary and, for me, a personal relationship with Jesus that would embrace me when life seemed totally unloving.

In the early 1980s, I met a man that I would love and live with for many years. It was almost an innate urge to declare our love for each other.

As men who had been married in the traditional sense, I recall our discussing the value of declaring our love publicly by following the traditional marriage model and whether it was inappropriate, or, even meaningful.

As time went on, the urge to celebrate our love grew. We decided to have a small gathering of friends at one of Boston’s most historically significant churches.

We publicly declared our love for each other. We promised to stand by each other through the joyous times, and the painful ones. We promised to stay the course through sickness and in health, through our youthful years and our aging ones. We promised to love each other’s children as our own.

On that day we created just one more loving and caring family, with all the day-to-day routines of life, as other traditional and non-traditional families experience.

Today, I am not only a father, but a proud grandfather of three. My greatest wish for them is that they grow up in a more accepting and loving environment than I experienced. I want them to feel like they can be their authentic selves throughout their growing years.

I want them to have the freedom to marry whomever they eventually fall in love with. I want them to have the opportunity to love, and be loved, in a supportive and caring family, town, county and state. I want them to have the legal rights and opportunities as others who enjoy the bond of marriage. I want them to always feel equal to their fellow residents of Maine.

In my Christian faith, the Holy Bible is broken down into sections; the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament had laws, such as the 10 commandments, that people were to follow until the coming of a Savior, named Jesus, the Son of God.

Jesus taught that the 10 commandments are no longer necessary because they have been superseded by two new commandments. Jesus is to have declared in John 22:37-40: “Thou shalt love the lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I often hear good people of my Christian faith, seemingly, passing judgment on the lives and loves of others, with an almost superior attitude and without displaying the fruits of a Christ-like life as declared to be: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperence.

I plead with my fellow Christians to ponder such behavior. If we say we are a follower of Jesus and do not display the characteristics that identify us as a follower of Jesus, then I suggest we are non-Christ-like.

If we speak words of hate, they will be interpreted as such. If we speak words of love they strengthen and broaden acceptance and affirm the human experience, while exemplifing Christ-like behavior.

To anyone who might be struggling with the issue of marriage for same-sex couples, and is afraid of making an error in that decision making, I plead with you to err on the side of love. Support love. Support the right to love. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

The Rev. Al Boyce of Vassalboro is a Unitarian Universalist minister. He wrote this column on behalf of the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination.