A Public Vote

Portland, Maine.

A state drawing battle lines for the definition of marriage.

My latest bit of travel was fairly interesting, to say the least. It started out in Maine covering Gay Marriage, and ended in Fort Hood, TX, covering tragedy. I’m going to write two separate posts, one on my trip to Maine, and one on the tragedy at Fort Hood.

Originally a quick two day trip, our mission was to head to Portland, ME and cover the citizen’s vote to uphold legislation that legalizes gay marriage. The state legalized gay marriage using state passed legislation, but the public demanded a vote instead. This vote would either uphold the current law (keeping gay marriage legal), or turn it down (making it illegal). Millions of dollars went into both campaigns: commercials, radio spots, billboards, signs and stickers. In the end the vote was won by citizens who wanted to do away with the current law (which wasn’t even in effect yet), successfully ending the possibility of gay marriage in Maine.

I found myself in a ballroom at the Easton Hotel, embedded with the camp of people who wanted the legislation to stand, the people that wanted to keep gay marriage legal. Wet bars were on both sides of the room, projectors flashed up the latest vote count on big screens at the front of the ballroom, and people excitedly watched as different counties in Maine started to report their numbers. Lesbian and gay couples held hands, talked with other couples, and quietly watched the screens with hope. As the night dragged on, the pro-gay marriage camp watched their numbers slowly fall as the votes to make it illegal started gaining ground. By 1:00AM, they had officially declared a loss…

Same sex couples cried softly, and tried to comfort themselves as they grabbed their jackets and headed out into the cold Maine night. A girl on a cell phone was leaning against a window in the hotel lobby. She was half crying, half yelling at the person on the other end of the phone. “How can they do this? How can they take away our rights to marry? How can they tell us who we can and can’t marry. It isn’t fair.”

I felt conflicted. Here I was, with a Christian Broadcasting Network media badge around my neck, knowing full well that we as a group would present their loss as a good thing. CBN would say that this was a victory for Christ, for God. I’m not so sure. Walking into the ballroom that night, well, I wanted to keep marriage defined as between a man and a woman. Simple. But looking into those crying faces, couples who wanted the same rights as heterosexual couples, it was hard. Sure, I don’t support the gay lifestyle, and I think that God wouldn’t be happy with me if I was in support of them. But something touched my heart. Here were angry people, gay and lesbian couples, who saw Christians as the enemy. They saw conservative Catholics, conservative evangelicals, as a group of people who took away their rights. How can we minister to them when they see us as oppressors? Again, where do we draw the battle lines? Is marriage a truly “Christian” thing? Is it a strictly “heterosexual thing?” Did the institution of marriage start out as a non-secular thing and transfer over into a secular thing? Is it like the sabbath–shared by both by religious and non-religious people? Where do we draw our battle lines?

There was pain in the eyes of people that night. And pain is pain, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation. Are we inflicting pain on a group of people for an institution that has obviously moved into the “public sector?” Is it too late to save heterosexual marriage? Am I being too soft and willing to support sinful behavior? These were all thoughts that swirled in my head. Ultimately, I was left with one simple, junior high level thought: what would Jesus do? Would he accept their sinful nature as being part of the human condition and love them in spite of it? Would he alienate the sinful by protecting his own institution, or even his own reputation? Or would he stop at nothing, as he often did socially and culturally, to reach those that needed him most? One thing is for sure: the gay community is rapidly drawing battle lines with Christians.

Maybe this is what we need–to love our enemy. As I put away my camera gear at the end of the night, taking off my CBN media badge, and slipping it into my back pocket, I felt a little better. I felt a little better knowing that as a anonymous observer, as someone who wasn’t labeled in the eyes of the gay community as a conservative Christian, people would hate me less. And this thought sparked guilt. Selfish and non-confrontational? Maybe. But guilt certainly; what for I’m still working out.

Dock in downtown Portland

Boats sitting in the cold water of northern Maine.

As we were leaving I snapped this picture of a boat dock outside our hotel. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus preaching to people from the deck of a wooden fishing boat; ministering in the midst of an ugly and confusing storm. Undoubtedly he can do the same in Maine.

CBN story can be found here:

Maine Voters Reject Gay Marriage Law – US – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

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