MEXICO — Their deep belief in God and Christian teachings is being boiled down to sound bites by the "mainstream media," and they say the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage in Maine is being dominated by those who support the idea.
That's how Carol Daigle and her sisters, Valerie Litalien and Cindy Terrill, feel about Question 1 on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Deeply devoted to their religions — Litalien is Catholic; Terrill and Daigle are Baptist — the sisters sat together in the front pew of Daigle's church Friday and spoke passionately about their beliefs and fears.
They are coming out publicly to say they oppose same-sex marriage, but they worry they will be cast as being hateful or bigoted.
"If this is the age of tolerance," Daigle said, "why aren't we being heard? We are not threatening to harm anybody. We are not saying you should be in jail for any of this, but what we are saying is this degrades the foundation of the family and society, promotes diseases and dysfunction and tears down the person's dignity."
Daigle said she wanted to meet in her church and sit where she could see the cross behind the pulpit. Litalien had a rosary wrapped around one hand. She said she leans on her faith, prays on a regular basis and knows that God meant for men and women to be together in marriage, not same-sex couples.
"When people say they don't see how it's wrong, I say to them if you can show me in the Bible where God says it's right, then I will agree with you," Terrill said.
The sisters said that as much as they hear that gays and lesbians are discriminated against, it feels now that those who oppose same-sex marriage are the ones being treated with bias. Terrill said she lost a job over her views, and Litalien worries about saying where she lives for fear of retaliation.
"We are now the ones being forced into the shadows," Daigle said. She said Maine voters decided the issue once when a citizen referendum overturned state legislation legalizing same-sex marriage.
"So, why are we doing this again?" Daigle asked. "We didn't bring this to them; they brought it to us. No means no."
Many simply don't dare to speak up for fear of being labeled hateful, Daigle said.
"Do you know how much courage it takes to go out in front of people and put up signs not to redefine marriage?" she asked. "How much courage it takes to put it on the back of your car? You could have your windows broken."
They know some in the Christian Civic League who have applied for and been granted concealed weapon permits because they faced death threats and other types of harassment.
"I'm not going to say all of them, but there is a radical segment — just like someone can say it's radical Muslims, there's only a section of them — there's a radical segment of pro same-sex people that are extremely radical, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want," Daigle said. "Those are the ones that are forcing us into the shadows."
The sisters say they want people to know they don't hate gay people.
Litalien told a story of how a gay couple she knew helped her find a religious film for her grandson after the child was recovering from an illness that left him near death.
"We love them as a person, but we don't have to agree with their lifestyle; but we love them as a person," Litalien said.
She, Terrill and Daigle are among seven siblings including two other sisters and two brothers. They said the whole family was raised going to church. Although they now practice different versions of Christianity, they said they all believe in the same God.
"We are crying foul because anyone who disapproves of the lifestyle is being told they hate (gays and lesbians)," Litalien said. "We are Christians and we are commanded to love. And my heart breaks for them being encouraged to stay in a harmful lifestyle that degrades the body and corrupts the soul. But we have no right to hate them and no right to tell them what they can and cannot do, but on that same note, we don't have to accept same-sex marriage as normal and natural."