BANGOR, Maine — After Mass on Sunday morning, Ed Oechslie left St. John Catholic Church and walked alone to Hammond Street Congregational Church.
The Brewer man wore a sign made on his computer and pinned to the back of his jacket. It showed a cross in the foreground with a rainbow rising behind its base, arcing across the background. Above the cross were the words, “Maine Catholics for Marriage Equality.”
Oechslie, who most often attends Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Brewer, joined more than 100 other people of faith for a worship service and rally at the United Church of Christ on Hammond Street.
The Bangor event, sponsored by the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, was one of four held around the state to show support for same-sex marriage and to rally opposition to Question 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot. The others were to be held in Portland, Auburn and Rockland.
“I think it’s important for Catholics to speak up,” Oechslie said before the Bangor service began. “The bishop has taken a stance that, in my view, has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.”
Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, was active in opposing LD 1020, the bill passed by the Legislature in April to allow same-sex couples to marry. He has issued letters and video messages to his flock urging Catholics to vote to repeal the law on Election Day. The diocese also has raised money for the Yes on 1 campaign and lent Marc Mutty, the director of public policy for the diocese, to the repeal effort.
Oechslie said he does not think Malone should have become so active in “the political arena.”
In addition to Catholics and Congregationalists, participants marched from the Unitarian-Universalist Church and Congregation Beth El, both in Bangor, and St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Brewer to the church on Hammond Street. The service included music, prayer, speeches, and a request for volunteers from the No on 1 campaign.
Clergy who oppose same-sex marriage also are preparing for the election in a little more than three weeks. The Rev. Bob Emrich, founder of the Maine Jeremiah Project, has been working with pastors around the state who support Question 1.
“We have meetings with clergy, but we don’t march in the street or do that kind of thing,” he said Sunday. “I think that it’s healthy for religious leaders to speak out about public policy but sad that [clergy in the coalition] take the position they do. I think they misrepresent the whole issue by putting it in the context of discrimination. It’s about redefining marriage. It’s not about discrimination.”
Emrich said he did not understand how Christian ministers could support same-sex marriage when “Jesus himself” defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Rabbi Darah Lerner of Congregational Beth El, Bangor’s Reform synagogue, said her religion required her to speak out at the rally.
“I am participating because my tradition calls me to pursue equality and justice for all people,” she said. “Full equality under the law for gay men and lesbians requires the legal recognition of monogamous domestic gay and lesbian relationships. All loving couples should be included in the civil right and the responsibility of marriage.”
The Rev. Mark Doty, pastor of the Hammond Street Congregational Church, told the crowd that one of the questions he often is asked is, “What will happen on Nov. 4?” the day after the election.
“I hope that our side will be gracious, no matter what happens,” he said Sunday. “To quote Gene Robinson, ‘Ultimately, same-sex marriage will be the law of the land because ultimately God wins.’”
Robinson is the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and the first openly gay priest elected a bishop in the denomination. He spoke in support of same-sex marriage last week in Portland.
“Romantic love is experienced in every culture and society all over the world,” said Jamie Wren, 20, a student at the University of Maine who grew up in Bangor. “I’m not sure what the big deal is [about same-sex marriage].”
Wren, who is gay, said that when he finds “a husband,” he wants to emulate the love and commitment modeled by his parents in their 33-year marriage.
“We are God’s hands and feet in making justice,” the Rev. Mark Worth, pastor of the First Universalist Church in Castine, said in the benediction.
The minister urged rally participants to ask friends, family and neighbors to vote no on Question 1.