Maine Catholics Debate Whether Rights Law Will Lead to Same-Sex 'Marriage'

LEWISTON, Maine — Maine residents will have a chance Nov. 8 to veto by referendum a homosexual-rights law that in other states has led to same-sex “marriage.”

Referendum Question No. 1 seeks to reject LD1196 — “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation.” The law passed the State Senate by a vote of 25-10 and the House by 91-58 and was signed into law by John Baldacci, the Democratic governor, on March 31.

Led by Paul Madore, a member of Holy Family Parish in Lewiston, several hundred Catholic members of the Maine Grassroots Coalition working with the Christian Civic League of Maine have taken a bold stand against the law. They gathered the 50,500 signatures needed to put the law on hold pending a people's veto referendum.

Similar homosexual-rights measures have been rejected by Maine voters in referenda in 1998 and 2000.

Rep. James Annis, R-Dover-Foxcroft, was not pleased that the law has resurfaced.

“For the Legislature and the governor to sidestep the previous referendums is unconscionable,” he said.

Still, Baldacci insisted the law will not only send a signal that Maine welcomes all people, but will protect students and employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Annis noted that citizens are already protected.

“The law is totally unnecessary in that any and all forms of discrimination are against one's civil rights,” he said.

Some legislators who oppose the law insist that it has more to do with same-sex “marriage” than anti-discrimination.

“It will lead to same sex ‘marriage’ definitely,” maintained Sen. Lois Snow-Mello, R-Poland. “It happened in Connecticut, in Massachusetts, in Vermont. We know this is part of a bigger agenda.”

Madore agreed. “There's no doubt. You’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see it. Once you include sexual orientation within the human rights statutes, you create a new classification of individuals, and you cannot limit their access to specific rights of employment, housing and credit. They would have a host of privileges, and they could file a grievance with the courts because of not having access to marriage and sue the state.”

Coming Conflicts

Rep. Thomas Shields, R-Auburn, explained what would happen next.

“Through a series of court decisions, gay ‘marriage’ may be possible, if there is legal recognition of homosexual behavior.”

Maine does have a Defense of Marriage Act, but if the new rights law is not overturned, homosexuals could request the right to marry and if the court grants it, the court decision would be in conflict with the legislation, causing further complications.

Massachusetts permitted same-sex “marriage” in a similar way, first granting privileges under a human rights act.

“You cannot include a class of people and give them special protection and then deny them the other privileges afforded to others protected under the statutes,” says Madore.

Madore fears that once a plurality of states grant homosexuals special protection, federal courts will be obliged to give them same-sex “marriage” on the national level. With a homosexual-rights law on a state's books, a court will be able to ask that state what its rational basis is for denying marriage. Because of the anti-discrimination law and legal precedent recognizing homosexuals as a protected class, the state will not be able to say that homosexuality is wrong.

As the referendum vote approaches, Madore and some legislators are hoping Bishop Richard Malone of Portland will take a clearer position. Earlier this year, he presented testimony to the Legislative Judiciary Committee saying he took a neutral stand.

“The diocese is not for and it's not against this law,” said Mark Mutty, director of public affairs for the Portland Diocese. “Obviously, it's conceivable that Catholics could have one view or the other and neither one necessarily would be in conflict with the Church.”

Shields warned, “Unless the Church takes a strong stand on this sodomous abnormal lifestyle, the evil will prevail.”

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in its document, “Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons,” teaches: “Since a matter of the common good is concerned, it is inappropriate for Church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse legislation” (No. 16).

People's Will

Nevertheless, priests like Father Kevin Martin from Sacred Heart Parish in Auburn are maintaining the bishop's stance.

“I'm in support of Bishop Malone of the Portland Diocese,” Father Martin said. “I'm not taking sides on either end because the Church believes in respecting the dignity of each human person, and at the same time has its obligation to support the moral teaching of the Church. It's a very sensitive issue and I choose to take neither side.”

On Sept. 29, Father Michael Seavey of St. Joseph's Church in Lewiston, wearing a clerical collar, participated in a homosexual rights forum sponsored by Maine Won't Discriminate, urging people to support the homosexual rights law.

Margaret Marcotte, a member of St. Joseph's Parish, attended the forum.

“Father Seavey wants special rights for homosexuals to remain in place,” she said. “The bishop has taken a neutral position, so I told [Father Seavey] I didn't think it was wise to speak out on this. It would mislead Catholics to think this is now the bishop's position.”

Marcotte fears the law will lead to same-sex “marriage,” and that the Church will lose its “ability to say from the pulpit that we believe homosexuality is wrong.”

Madore insists the law is not the will of the people.

“Gov. Baldacci brought this law to satisfy the wishes of the pro-homosexual lobby,” he said. “They're very powerful. They have a lot of money. … They keep coming back until they break the will of the people. This is not the will of the people; it's the strengths of the pro-homosexual lobby that serves the governor.”

But he believes the will of the people will prevail.

Mary Ann Sullivan is based in New Durham, New Hampshire.