September 9, 2009
On April 22, 2009, I watched with awe as pro-marriage equality forces gathered to testify before a legislative committee in Maine. The breadth and depth of the testimony, coming as it did in the 3 minute segments allotted to each speaker, ably represented the wide diversity of voices in Maine and this country supporting marriage equality.
The legislature later deliberated and voted to support marriage equality and the governor signed the bill. But it wasn’t long before the forces opposed to marriage equality gathered enough signatures to put the issue of equality for a minority, in this case LGBT people, on the ballot in November 2009.
Labor Day has passed and Maine, the Vacationland state, is now entering into a period of fierce struggle around marriage equality. The same hardball players who wrested marriage equality from the people of California are in Maine and spinning their old tales. Schubert Flint Public Affairs, the major architects of the inequality campaign in California, are running the show in Maine. Major funds have come in from the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the family, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, Maine.
Maine is 29% Catholic (higher than the nation at 24%) and the Catholics are organized. They are the largest religious group in the state, probably in part because of the high concentration of French-Canadians. Mormons make up 1% of the population but they are from a religious tradition that draws heavily on Mormon resources in other parts of the country. So, factoring in the Catholic/Mormon nexus with the media and campaign savvy of Schubert Flint, Maine is bracing for what we call in New England a fierce Nor’easter. Sebastian Junger wrote about The Perfect Storm. I see another one brewing.
A small paragraph in the Boston Globe on September 7th noted:
“The Catholic Church in Maine is stepping up its effort to defeat a gay marriage law in November. The WBLZ News Center reported that the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland is asking its parishes to take a special second collection next weekend to help pay for a campaign on a referendum that could reverse the same-sex marriage law passed by the state Legislature. Money raised in the effort will go to Stand for marriage Maine, which is leading the effort to repeal the law.”
The separation of church and state has little meaning in marriage equality battles across the country. Catholics like to call their church, The Church. Soon they may have all of us doing it. We need to stave off foes of inequality and foes of the separation of church and state. They are one and the same in Maine.