Maine GayNet - Decline to sign

Thursday July 10, 1997

Decline to sign

In the name of religion, self-appointed guardians of "family values" of Maine’s conservative "Christian" political lobby are seeking to overturn this state’s recent extension of civil rights protection to gays and lesbians.

The new law was passed after 20 years of struggle in the Maine Legislature. When Gov. Angus King signed it, he told a packed State House audience that "You have been ridiculed, hated, discriminated against … hunted down and systematically murdered. Not for what you choose, but for what God’s nature made you. Not for something you had control over, but for what you are."

Maine’s Christian Civic League, (which brought us Prohibition in the 1920s) and the Christian Coalition are apoplectic at this civil rights law, and have started a petition drive to gather the 52,000 signatures necessary to subject it to a referendum vote in November.

In a recent newsletter, League Director Michael Heath used Biblical references to attack legislators who voted for civil rights despite heavy pressure from the "religious" right. Heath linked the anti-gay struggle with the league’s other bete noire, abortion rights:

"A large majority of Maine’s Senate might as well be the governing body of Sodom, and much of the House could comfortably lead Gomorrah. The chances of enacting a bill that would protect babies in the womb has as much chance of passing as a pro-life, anti-homosexual leader has of being taken seriously by today’s cultural elite — none."

The Good Book has been put to bad uses by "Christians" through too many centuries: The Crusades were little more than a campaign to kill nonbelievers, and the Inquisition was best defined by its institutionalized practice of torture. Now, some "Christians" who no longer espouse killing and torture of people they cannot tolerate seem content to merely deny them the rights that Christians themselves enjoy — if they are heterosexual. Perhaps this is progress.

The attempt to thwart political discussion by the introduction of specific religious references is offensive. Our political system was founded on the separation of church and state, and arguments based on a particular passage from the Bible are not persuasive. The diverse instruction of the Bible, written so many years ago, can be put to many different uses.

Thankfully, many Christians prefer to find a lesson of tolerance and a passionate concern for the poor and disenfranchised in the lessons of Christ’s life.

If the league is successful in its petition drive, this state will be subjected to a political fight much nastier than the 1995 referendum vote, in which the people of Maine which decisively rejected Carolyn Cosby’s attempt to prevent the expansion of civil rights laws.

The right-wing "Christian" leaders are determined to fight this battle on moral and religious grounds, very possibly unleashing the kind of violent attacks and hate crimes that still occur here.

We urge our readers to reject the petition drive, and to urge others to do the same. We already fought this battle two years ago, and another statewide vote on this issue will mean a nasty political season this fall.

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