The Babbling of Bigots

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on May 12, 2009

In the latest state to allow queers to walk down the aisle, the head of the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, Maine says his church will fight the recently enacted gay marriage law. Maine Governor John Baldacci not only put his name on the same-sex marriage bill, but he also rushed it into law, signing it only hours after it was passed. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage,” the Democrat said.

All of which ruffled the feathers (or cassock perhaps) of Bishop Richard Malone, who declared, “Same-sex marriage is a dangerous sociological experiment that I believe will have negative consequences for society as a whole.”

Opponents of gay marriage have already said that they will campaign to repeal the law.

“Although the details are still being worked out,” said Diocesan spokesperson Marc Mutty, “we can say with certainty that the Portland Diocese will play a lead role in organizing this petition drive to bring the issue before the voters.”

With its tax-exempt status firmly in place, it wouldn’t be the first time the church has stepped into the political arena to deny the LGBT community basic human rights. As early as the 70s, church leaders testified against gay rights bills when they were being considered by legislative bodies.

In my hometown of Philadelphia in 1974, a representative from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia spoke out against a bill that would have protected queers from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. His testimony at the City Council hearings helped defeat the legislation.

More recently, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer invited his friends in the Mormon church to get involved in the fight for Prop 8, which overturned gay marriage in California. Niederauer himself took part in the campaign by producing flyers and issuing statements against gay marriage.

His church poured lots of money into the campaign as well: The Knights of Columbus, the right-wing political arm of the church, donated $1.4 million. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave $200,000.

In the end, individual Mormons outdid the Catholics, contributing an estimated $20 million altogether.

When all is said and done, men like Niederauer and Malone are nothing more than dinosaurs staunchly defending a world that is vanishing under their very big outdated feet. A world in which queers were routinely beaten in schools and killed on the streets, and men like them said and did nothing.

Pronouncements such as “dangerous sociological experiment” only make them look sillier and more desperate to defend that homophobic tradition.

The mere babbling of bigots.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which will be published in June by City Lights Books. His website:

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