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In the trenches

The word from activists against gay marriage: If the battle hasn't come to your state it will; be ready to work hard and be weary

In the trenches

(Photo by Joel Page/Reuters/Landov)

Surrounded by Catholic, Orthodox, and evangelical leaders at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, Chuck Colson revealed a 4,732-word document representing a year's worth of ecumenical work. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, described the Christian-based Manhattan Declaration as a "call to conscience for the church" and a "clear message to civil authorities" on issues pertaining to life, marriage, and religious liberty.

The 148 original signatories included evangelical leaders like J.I. Packer and Tim Keller, and prominent Catholics like Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. (WORLD founder Joel Belz and editor in chief Marvin Olasky are also signatories.)

A lengthy section on marriage includes a confession that the church has often failed to uphold the institution of marriage and offers an adamant defense of traditional marriage: ". . . we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?"

In a small office near the granite walls of the capital building in Augusta, Maine, Michael Hein echoes that question. The administrator of the Christian Civic League of Maine is one of hundreds of Maine citizens who worked for months to fight gay marriage legislation in the left-leaning state. The results surprised many: In a ballot initiative on Nov. 3, Maine voters repealed a state law that would have legalized same-sex marriage.

The victory was a relief for people like Hein, but the battle was hard-fought: What began with pavement pounding in the pouring rain in June ended with death threats at two organizations that oppose gay marriage in November. "It's tough, frankly," says Hein, who discovered a death threat in his group's voicemail.

And the victory could be short-lived: Soon after the legislation's defeat, Equality Maine, a gay rights group driving the "No On 1" campaign to support gay marriage, announced a series of five meetings to begin re-grouping. Jesse Connolly, the campaign's manager, assured gay marriage supporters: "We're in this for the long haul."

That may be one thing both sides have in common. With gay marriage battles likely to resurface in Maine, and new battles looming in other states, opponents of gay marriage say defending their principles involves rolling up their sleeves, facing hard work, and overcoming weariness. For those living in states without gay marriage battles now, they add this advice: Assume it will come. Begin to prepare.

Scott Fish began preparing last spring. The Maine resident and editor of As Maine Goes, a popular, conservative political blog covering state politics, became communications director for Stand for Marriage Maine, a coalition of Mainers, including conservatives, Christians, pastors, and others who opposed a gay marriage provision that was set to take effect on Sept. 12.

Maine Gov. John Baldacci had signed the legislation minutes after it reached his desk from the state legislature in May. The move angered many: Baldacci, a Roman Catholic, had assured voters he would oppose same-sex marriage. But the governor said he changed his mind, calling it discriminatory to oppose the law.

Fish says that set a rushed plan in motion: Maine's constitution allows for a vote on "a people's veto" of legislation if opponents can gather 55,000 signatures of registered voters to put the issue on the ballot. With the bill set to take effect in September, time was short. "We had 90 days," says Fish. After 45 days of knocking on doors in one of the rainiest Junes on record in Maine, the group had what it needed, says Fish: "We turned into the secretary of state 100,343 signatures of registered Maine voters."

The secretary certified the petition on Sept. 2, giving gay marriage opponents two months to campaign against gay marriage supporters who had been working toward such legislation for years. Local groups like Stand for Marriage, the Christian Civic League, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, and some evangelical churches helped with legwork to promote the repeal.

Fish says it was hard to get traction in a liberal state: "There were a lot of people in Maine who were afraid of being labeled haters and bigots." When the "No On 1" campaign publicized groups that supported gay marriage, including businessmen, lawyers, and teachers, Fish says: "We were having a hard time finding a teacher who would go on camera."

He doesn't know what changed the momentum, but by Election Night, groups supporting the repeal had gained traction: Voters narrowly repealed the law, with 53 percent of the vote, handing gay marriage supporters a significant defeat.

Though Fish says the campaigns remained relatively civil, a few days after the vote workers at Stand for Marriage headquarters discovered a voicemail with a threatening message: "You're dead. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, you're dead." Fish says the group contacted the police, but he doesn't expect the investigation to go far. The call came from an untraceable number.

So did a similar call to Christian Civic League. Hein says he discovered a voicemail on Nov. 6 directed toward Mike Heath, the organization's former director, who had resigned in September. The caller said of Heath: "I'm a gay guy who owns guns, and he's my next target."

Hein says his group also called police, and that the threat is under investigation. He says it's not the first time they've faced intimidation: In a 2005 campaign against non-discrimination laws for gays, Hein says a vandal desecrated the organization's sign with an inverted cross in red spray paint. He also says hostile letters from anonymous sources are common, though typically not threatening.

Hein says he's not surprised by hostility: "Once you take up the mantle and a Christian worldview . . . you're going to touch some nerves." But he admits that the struggles can grow wearisome, and he says campaigns like this one "overwhelm everything else that you try to do. And that wears on you." Still, he says his group will prepare for what's next, including the possibility of another campaign against gay marriage. "It's wearying if you let it be," he says. "If the cause wasn't as just, you probably wouldn't be as enthusiastic about it."

That's what Len Deo tells himself. The director of the New Jersey Family Policy Council is active in his group's opposition to ongoing efforts to pass gay marriage legislation before Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine leaves office in January. Gay rights groups want lawmakers to pass the legislation that Corzine has promised to sign. Corzine's successor-the recently elected Republican Chris Christie-has promised he would oppose gay marriage.

By mid-November, the legislation was moving slowly-something Deo hopes is a good sign. Deo says his group is working with others to encourage citizens to write, call, and visit their lawmakers. He thinks legislators might worry about crossing voters who elected a Republican governor opposed to gay marriage. "I'm hopeful," he says. "But we're not stopping."

As similar battles loom in places like Washington, D.C., Fish says there's no time to stop. And he says that citizens in other states should begin preparing for the possibility that they'll face a similar struggle. "If there is any kind of buzz about legalizing same-sex marriage, it should be taken seriously," he says. "It's not going to go away."

On the sidelines

While devoted activists from both sides of the gay marriage debate plot strategy for their next moves, Michael Glatze mostly watches from the sidelines. That's surprising to some: Just four years ago, Glatze was a practicing homosexual, a prominent gay activist, and editor of a national magazine for gay youth. Two years ago, he publicly renounced homosexuality and asserted a belief in Christianity.

Glatze soon disappeared from the public eye, resisting a well-worn path: instant hero status for a new cause. In October, he re-emerged, granting a few interviews and writing a column for the conservative site WorldNetDaily about remaining straight and insisting that others "can and must" leave "the sin and practices of the lifestyle of homosexuality."

From his home in rural Colorado, Glatze says he still isn't looking to become a poster boy for the ex-gay movement, though he faces criticism that his recent musings are a ploy for attention. Instead, Glatze says he wants to tell his story, even as he continues to try to figure it out for himself.

Glatze's story as a gay man began in college, soon after his mother's death when Glatze was 20 years old. (His father died when Glatze was 13). "After that I remember thinking I could do anything and everything I ever thought was bad," he said. "And I did."

For Glatze, that meant homosexual activity and activism. He became leader of a gay student group at Dartmouth College. After college he and his partner founded a national magazine for gay youth. Time magazine interviewed him for a 2005 cover story called "The Battle Over Gay Teens" that pitted Glatze and other gay activists against Christian groups that warned youth about homosexuality.

"To me it felt like a whole new world, and I was the star," he said. "Because I stood for something. My life now meant something."

But as Glatze reached more people with his message, he grew increasingly uneasy. "I was ministering a gospel to them, and I began feeling like what I was telling them wasn't good," he said. "It was extremely horrifying."

As Glatze began doubting his own "gospel," he began reading the New Testament and asking the question: "What's wrong with my life?" He says he soon realized: "The most obvious answer was the one I had been avoiding." He typed on the computer in front of him: "Homosexuality is death. I choose life."

Glatze didn't know exactly what that meant, though he knew it meant leaving homosexuality. After he wrote a column about his new beliefs, "the gay community exploded," he says. Some expressed pity. Others expressed disdain. Christians expressed delight: Glatze says he received nearly 900 emails, mostly from Christians encouraging him and giving him advice, a process he found overwhelming. He considered going on the speaking circuit but decided to accept different counsel: Get his footing first. He remembers an email from someone who suggested that he work on his sanctification. "I realized I didn't know what sanctification was, and maybe I should find out," he says.

That search has led the man with a nominal Christian background down an unusual path: two months in the Mormon Church (he liked their conservative stance on homosexuality and abortion but not their doctrine), then one year at a Buddhist retreat center, retaining his Christian beliefs, he says, and reading writers like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and R.C. Sproul. This summer he began attending a local evangelical church, and he says: "I don't know why I didn't do this sooner." He recently moved in with a couple from the church and says he meets regularly with the pastor.

(He also occasionally writes or gives interviews. Critics recently seized on an unsavory blog post he wrote in October after former President Jimmy Carter said that racism played a part in people's objections to President Barack Obama. Glatze's blog post said Obama was "disgusting," adding: "And, yes, it's because he's black." Glatze says he's not a racist, and that the post was satire aimed at lampooning Carter's suggestion that disagreement with Obama is rooted in racism. Still, some have questioned his explanation, and his blog is no longer active.)

After a year of retreating from the world, Glatze says he's ready to "re-enter the land of the living" and looks forward to his involvement with the church, though he doesn't have definite plans. He may write a book but says he wants to be careful: "I've done a lot of that in the past-that 'I'm going to take over the world . . .'"-he says. "I don't have that kind of goal now."

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is national editor of WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked for the Charlotte World. Jamie has covered politics, disasters, religion, and more for WORLD. She resides in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.