This is a little off our beat but it seems like an issue our readers would want to address. Question 1 was a proposal on the ballot in Maine last November designed to reverse a new law allowing marriage equality. It passed, taking the right for same-sex couples to marry with it. Major funding and other support for Question 1 came from the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland.
In the past, the Portland Diocese had also funded the Preble Street’s Homeless Voices for Justice program. Portland-based Preble Street runs a collection of programs to help the poor and homeless, those who can’t overcome the barriers to other services. They also seek to give those they serve a way to participate in their own solutions. To that end, Homeless Voices gives people in need a way to work within the political process to improve their own lives.
Homeless Voices for Justice is a state-wide social change movement, organized and led by people who have struggled with homelessness. It is a grassroots effort based on the belief that true change occurs only when those affected by an unjust system are directly involved in addressing the injustices and in which disenfranchised people become empowered and gain leadership skills to organize and advocate for institutional change.
During the campaign in Maine leading up to last November’s vote, Homeless Voices came out against Question 1, and for marriage equality. This apparently did not sit well with the Catholic Diocese, who along with the Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development, pulled funding of the Preble Street program. Citing an earlier agreement, a spokesperson for the Diocese said:
…the diocese requires agencies that receive funding to conform to the moral and social teachings of the Catholic Church. She said Preble Street agreed to that requirement when it applied for the money.
Previously, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development had this to say about Preble Street:
For homeless and low-income people who don’t fit into Maine’s traditional social service system, the Preble Street Resource Center (rhymes with “pebble”) is a lifeline. The Portland-based organization offers everything from day shelter and food pantry services to employment counseling, housing location assistance, and HIV prevention. But rather than simply provide these stop-gap services, Preble Street’s Consumer Advocacy Project is organizing low-income and homeless people to participate in the state’s political and social agenda and improve the systems that serve them.
In short, the Catholic Church in Portland agrees that Preble Street is doing excellent work to fulfill the Church’s own mandate, to help the poor and downtrodden. And they do so in a way that is uniquely sustainable, involving those it helps in the process. The one thing they supposedly did wrong, and for which they have lost support from that same Church, is to disagree publicly on the issue of marriage equality.
Proposition 8 and the similar efforts that followed hit us hard. We believe there is something fundamentally wrong with putting civil rights up for majority vote. Those who disagree (overwhelmingly these were ministry based or funded) constantly claimed they had a right to weigh in with their own beliefs and have their opinions heard without fear of retribution. It seems in Portland that the Catholic Diocese, a major player in the fight against marriage equality in Maine, is unwilling to extend this same right to those who help the least among us. Preble Street and those who depend on it lost something because of their stand for our rights. Helping to make up that shortfall is one way to make this right.
At XGW, suggestions on donations are extremely rare. We don’t even use advertising. This will be an exception. It seems to us that donating anything to help make up this shortfall, or even double it, would be one tangible way to erase at least some of the damage caused by these massive anti-gay campaigns. Over the past day, we have checked into Preble Street. Everything we have found suggests that it is the real deal — a highly effective support system and advocate for the poor and homeless. They support 500 people a day and are working to provide permanent housing to those who can’t be properly sustained through other forms of support.
This place gets results, and they are doing the work that the Church should be. The Catholic Church has provided millions of dollars to fight marriage equality. Think of the number of people a place like Preble Street could have helped with that money.
Hat Tip: Portland Press Herald