LEWISTON, Maine — Christian Breau believes all Mainers ought to be treated equally.
“It’s time,” he said in a recent Facebook posting.
Raised Catholic and a regular churchgoer until he went to college, Breau knows his church and many in it are opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine. The issue will go before voters Nov. 6.
Breau said people who have faith in Christian beliefs should recognize they are not the ones to pass judgment on others.
“It does not affect my marriage and my life at all to allow other loving life partners to finally enjoy the same rights that I have,” Breau said. “If this is against your religion, then let God deal with the ‘sin.’ You and I were not meant to be the judges; we were meant to love others as we would be loved.”
Breau said he’s not much of a practicing Catholic anymore, but he was taught by his mother at a young age that true love is unconditional, and that’s a Christian value, too. But law and religion should be kept separate in America, he said.
“The Bible has no place in our laws,” Breau said. “That’s religion, and I have no right to force my religious beliefs on people who believe differently than me.”
He said it’s hypocritical of heterosexuals of Christian faith to say who should and should not be married, given the divorce rate in America.
“(It will be) interesting to see if gay couples have a lower divorce rate than the embarrassing rate that we (heterosexuals) have,” Breau wrote. “We’ve set the bar pretty low.”
Others of the Catholic faith, including former Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who once opposed same-sex marriage, share some of Breau’s views.
In a recent interview, Baldacci said his views on same-sex marriage have changed.
A lifelong Catholic, he said his faith is still strong and he still supports all the good work the church does in the U.S. and around the world. But as an individual, he can’t support its position on same-sex marriage.
Maine people, Baldacci said, are also more accepting and inclined to live and let live. But the state’s very foundation is based in freedom, Baldacci said.
“Maine is a state that doesn’t discriminate,” Baldacci said. “We came into the Union by the Missouri Compromise; Maine came in as a free state. I’ve always believed as governor that there’s something in the water and the air in this state that protects individuals against discrimination.”
Baldacci said he believes most Maine people recognize that if discrimination against any group of people is tolerated, discrimination could be pushed on any group.
“I think when we feel discrimination against anyone, there’s a sense that it could happen to any one of us also and we’ve got to stand together,” Baldacci said. “It’s almost a Libertarian quality this state has, more than any particular political party.”
The former governor said he knows reconciling this concept with one’s personal faith can be difficult.
“This is an issue which is not an easy issue in terms of people’s understanding, because in a lot of cases it’s something we were not exposed to early on, growing up,” he said. “Recognizing that people do want to live together, love together and become a family together is something to be appreciated, especially in the difficult, challenging world that we live in.”
Baldacci said when he was governor, he was more comfortable recognizing civil unions, rather than gay marriage “because I always had the understanding that marriage was something that was conveyed by the church and civil union was recognized by the state, and there’s been a separation of church and state.”
He said the referendum question before voters does nothing to erode that separation and that churches are still free to practice their beliefs, including not marrying same-sex couples.
It allows same-sex marriages to be recognized under the law and grants same-sex partners all of the rights that married people have.
“It’s important to treat people equally and not have people in different categories of unions, because the Constitution is for all of us. It’s equal protection for all of us citizens,” Baldacci said.
He said Maine people should celebrate whenever two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other.
Reconciling his views on same-sex marriage with his own faith was something that wasn’t simple, but Baldacci said it doesn’t diminish his faith.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the bishop and for the work the bishop does and for the Catholic church,” Baldacci said. “I was an altar boy, and I still go to church and believe in it very strongly.”
But Baldacci said his life experience included growing up when John Kennedy, the country’s first Catholic president, had to go to certain religious groups, such as the Convention of Southern Baptist Ministers, to “assure them that the church, the Pope were not going to dictate policies to him as president of the United States out of the Oval Office.”
Kennedy’s response was a promise that a very clear separation of church and state would remain, Baldacci said.
Kennedy also advocated the idea that when you held a high elected office in the United States, you were there to represent all faiths and all people, Baldacci said.
“There’s an understanding that we are not all of the same faith or all of the same background, but we are all Americans,” Baldacci said.
He said he drew encouragement and confidence on his decision to support same-sex marriage based on the way Kennedy wrestled with the issues.
“How he drew a strong line between church and state is where I felt, as governor of the state of Maine and as an individual citizen under the Constitution, that the same rights and freedoms that I enjoy should be available for all people, regardless of their religious background, their racial background, their sexual orientation,” Baldacci said. “We are all people, and we should all be treated equally under the Constitution.”