The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization, has given $100,000 to Protect Marriage Maine, the group leading efforts to oppose same-sex marriage in Maine.
The money comes from the international offices of the group, according to a press release.
“I believe this gift will encourage many other Mainers to financially support our efforts to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Bob Emrich, chairman of Protect Marriage Maine. “We look forward to continued financial and grassroots support as the campaign gears up for its final phase of advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts prior to Nov. 6.”
Last week, the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, released a report that stated that 60 percent of the funding for the four anti-gay-marriage campaigns across the country had come from the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church, or the National Organization for Marriage. Until this $100,000 gift, the Knights had given only about $1,000 to the Maine campaign and NOM had given $252,000.
As of the last reporting deadline, Mainers United for Marriage, the leading political action committee in support of gay marriage, had raised $3.35 million, while Protect Marriage Maine had $429,794. Those totals do not include other groups that raise and spend money to support or oppose Question 1, or in-kind donations.
The money from the Knights is also significant in Maine because the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has taken a much smaller role in the anti-gay-marriage campaign this year. In 2009, the diocese gave more than $500,000, gathered collections during Mass and loaned one of their senior officers to the campaign. This year, the diocese has organized a series of talks at churches around the state to spread the word about why Catholics oppose same-sex marriage.
Bishop Richard Malone released a statement today about the election.
“The definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, open to the birth of children, is a matter of established Catholic doctrine,” he wrote. “Any Catholic who supports a redefinition of marriage — or so called same-sex marriage — is unfaithful to Catholic doctrine.”
He also took particular aim at Catholics for Marriage Equality, a group that formed in 2009 and is active again this year in promoting a “yes” on 1 vote.
“The group calling itself ‘Catholics for Mariage Equality’ does not speak for the Catholic Church, any more than does ‘Catholics for a Free Choice’ another dissident group that promotes so-called ‘abortion rights,'” he said. “Faithful Catholics give no credence to either.”
In response, Catholics for Marriage Equality issued a statement saying they believe Malone is “overreaching his authority” by practically telling people how to vote.
“Church officials do not have the authority to command that Catholics vote one way or the other in a civil election,” said Frank O’Hara, spokesman for the group. “This has never been a part of Catholic teaching. Instead, the church has always taught that a Catholic must consult his or her own conscience to make the best decisions about life and politics.”
O’Hara said they support gay marriage because they believe it “advances human dignity and serves the common good.”
Later in the day, Malone released a separate statement specifically about the Knights of Columbus donation.
“The recent donation of $100,000 from the international offices of the Knights of Columbus to Protect Marriage Maine was not made at my request or at the urging of the diocese,” he said. “As I have stated, the diocese is not contributing funds to the political effort attempting to stop the redefinition of marriage.”
The announcement of the $100,000 gift comes just days after gay-marriage supporters said they got a $125,000 matching grant from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. More financial details will be released Friday and Saturday as the campaigns file their latest reports to the state.