BANGOR, Maine — Religious leaders around Maine had mixed reactions Wednesday to the voters’ repeal of same-sex marriage on Election Day.
“I want to thank the people of Maine for protecting and reaffirming their support for marriage as it has been understood for millennia by civilizations and religions around the world,” Bishop Richard Malone, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Malone spoke against same-sex marriage in April at the legislative hearing held at the Augusta Civic Center. He also issued a pastoral letter shortly before the election urging parishioners to vote for Question 1. In addition, the diocese contributed money to the “Yes on 1” campaign and lent Marc Mutty, public policy director for the diocese, to the campaign.
The diocese poured more than $550,000 into the campaign to repeal the law, including more than $150,000 from its general treasury after Oct. 1. The Portland diocese also collected more than $200,000 for Stand for Marriage Maine from bishops and dioceses outside of Maine, according to financial reports filed with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office on Oct. 23.
“These past few months have served as a teaching opportunity to explain to parishioners and the wider community about how and why the church views and values marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Malone said Wednesday. “It also has been an opportunity for listening, and I trust that those who voted for such a radical change did so out of concern for our gay brothers and sisters.
“Respect and acceptance of all people regardless of sexual orientation is not a point of controversy — indeed, it is a teaching of the church,” he concluded. “While the Catholic Church will continue its commitment to work for the basic human rights to which all people are entitled, it remains devoted to preserving and strengthening the precious gift of marriage.”
The Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, expressed disappointment Wednesday over the election results. He spoke in favor of same-sex marriage at the hearing before the Judiciary Committee in April.
“Many faithful Episcopalians are deeply grieved at this decision,” Lane said in a written statement. “They had hoped that they and their families might enjoy the recognition and protections afforded heterosexual couples. The rejection of the law also feels like rejection of them as persons. I join in their grief that the right of same-gender couples to enter into a lifelong, monogamous marriage has been denied.
“At the same time I know there are other faithful Episcopalians who are thankful about the election results. I understand that this matter has been a matter of conscience for them. Although the question of same-gender civil marriage may be settled in Maine for now, I would remind all Episcopalians — both here in Maine and across the wider church — that we will continue the conversation about these issues for years to come.”
The Episcopal Church in North America has been at odds with the Worldwide Anglican Communion over the rights of homosexuals in the denomination since 2003 when the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson was elected to head the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Robinson was the first openly gay Anglican bishop in the world.
Lane also said in his statement that he would not distribute to Episcopal clergy in Maine the guidelines for same-sex wedding ceremonies he began working on in April when Gov. John Baldacci signed LD 1020 into law. The Episcopal bishop said he would “continue to work with a small group to consider the ways we may support the faithful, monogamous relationships of faithful gay and lesbian Episcopalians.”
The Christian Civic League of Maine, a coalition of conservative Protestant churches and ministers, welcomed the election results but urged its members that repealing same-sex marriage was but one victory in a larger battle.
“Supporters of traditional marriage are now feeling a mixture of joy and relief, the kind of elation one feels after a narrow escape from disaster,” the League said in a press release issued Wednesday. “For the League and her supporters, this is a welcome feeling after years of hard work and sacrifice.
“Victory over the radical homosexual lobby and its agenda does not consist of a temporary rejection of the concept of homosexual marriage,” the League concluded. “It means faithfulness to God’s laws pertaining to marriage and the family, and a return to Biblical truth about homosexuality. Victory will only be realized when the public returns to an awareness that homosexuality is a sin.”
The Rev. Mark Worth, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Castine and a member of the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine, reminded members of his flock in an e-mail that the struggle for justice can be long.
“It was not until 100 years after the Civil War that we ended legal racial segregation,” he said. “Only in 1968 did all states allow interracial marriage. I am confident that history is moving toward justice, and that the right to marry will continue to spread throughout the land. It may take time, but justice will not always be denied.”