BANGOR, Maine — Donald Trump’s stunning ascension to the presidency has local Unitarian Universalist church members praying that he won’t curtail the social and legal acceptance that gay and transgendered citizens say they have earned through decades of perseverance.
The members of at least five churches, including those in Augusta, Bangor, Blue Hill, Damariscotta and Portland, have gathered for candlelight vigils, prayer groups or discussions since Trump’s historic victory. Students at the University of Maine in Orono also held a walk on Thursday for those who felt “victimized” by Trump’s win.
The vigils have a common theme addressed by the Rev. Erika Hewitt of Midcoast Unitarian Universalist congregation, which held a vigil on Wednesday night at Skidompha Library in Damariscotta.
“Everything that I have seen about Donald Trump is in direct contradiction to the religious and spiritual values that drive me as a member of the human family and as a citizen. This to me is religious,” Hewitt said.
“As a church, we don’t endorse or denounce candidates, but now that the election is over, it is pretty clear that the values we hold as a faith community are opposite the values” of the president-elect, said the Rev. Myke Johnson, pastor at Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church of Portland.
“People have concerns about xenophobia, racism and his bullying attitude and sexual objectification of women. These are the opposite of our values and so people are feeling heartbroken,” added Johnson, whose vigil on Wednesday night drew about 90 people.
And several people at Bangor’s Unitarian church who identified themselves as gay or lesbians simply expressed shock at Clinton’s loss.
Trump’s record on LGBT issues is erratic. The Washington Times reported that the Republican held up a rainbow flag with the words “LGBT for Trump” written on it during a Colorado campaign stop on Sept. 29. The newspaper called it “an historic moment for gay equality and the Party of Lincoln as the 2016 GOP nominee” held up the rainbow flag.
Yet he also antagonized some LGBT proponents when he responded to the June terror strike at a Florida nightclub, the deadliest anti-gay attack in American history, by saying that his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. would protect them from radical Islamic terrorists who target homosexuals. They accused him of using LGBT members to foster anti-immigration attitudes.
Critics speculate that Trump would effectively overturn gay marriage by appointing a conservative Supreme Court justice. People who attended a prayer vigil in Bangor expressed concern about Trump’s religious right affiliates gaining power by taking advantage of his inexperience in government and politics. They also fear that the white, male and deeply conservative backers he drew would take his victory as license to use violence on them.
“I can see everything winding back to the 1940s and ’50s,” said one woman who spoke during the Bangor vigil.
“My hope is that this is not going to be an opportunity for further polarization,” said Sherri Mitchell, a Penobscot Indian Nation resident who organized a vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bangor on Wednesday that drew about 20 people.
One woman, who identified herself only as Karen, told attendees at the Bangor vigil that she hoped their fears would be proved unwarranted.
“I don’t believe many people who voted for Donald Trump voted for the things he said,” Karen said. “I think they voted for a change in the status quo. Our community has moved forward in ways that cannot be changed.”