LEWISTON, Maine — A standing-room-only crowd at Bates College Tuesday was met by a man who defines today’s civil rights fight for same-sex couples and the challenges they face in terms of religious beliefs. The event was organized by Mainers United for Marriage.
“Let’s not forget what an ‘ism’ is,” Bishop Gene Robinson reminded the crowd of nearly 200 people. “An ‘ism’ is prejudice plus the power to put that prejudice into practice.”
He likened homophobia and people’s unwillingness to accept gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to other well-known “isms” such as racism and sexism. Robinson told the crowd that instead of homophobia, it’s “heterosexism.”
Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, was elected in 2003 to head the Diocese of New Hampshire. He spoke following a screening of “Love Free or Die,” a documentary chronicling his life from 2008-2010. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and received rave reviews and awards.
“Like every other state in the country Maine has tens of thousands of loving same-sex couples living in our state,” Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said. “Our society is made stronger when all these loving, committed couples have the ability to marry.”
McTighe said the organization is working to raise public awareness. While he expects opposition to the referendum, mostly from out-of-state organizations, he is confident that the state is better poised to pass the issue this year than any other.
Mainers will vote in November on a referendum on same-sex marriage.
“I consider this to be a civil rights issue. The opponents consider it to be a moral issue,” the Rev. Dr. Steven F. Crowson of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston said. “For the people who consider it a moral issue, it’s a matter of conscience, but matters of conscience can’t override the civil rights of people.”
Robinson was greeted by rousing applause following the film. He urged supporters to reach out to what he called the “movable middle” of the state’s voting block before the upcoming election this fall.
“They’ve stopped hating us, yet they still go into the voting booth and vote against us,” Robinson said.
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