The spiritual leader of Maine's 200,000 Roman Catholics said he was "deeply disappointed" in the state's lawmakers and governor for making same-sex marriage legal in Maine.
Bishop Richard Malone also called same-sex marriage "a dangerous sociological experiment" that he believes will have negative and "tragic" consequences for society as a whole.
"Children will be taught in schools that same-sex marriage and traditional marriage are simply different expressions of the same thing, and that the logical and consistent understanding that marriage and reproduction are intrinsically linked is no longer valid," said the Catholic bishop of Portland in a statement released Thursday.
"These are profound changes that will reverberate throughout society with tragic consequences."
This past Wednesday, Maine Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine less than an hour after the Senate passed it by a 21-13 vote.
The bill's signing made Maine the fifth state to legalize the practice following Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont.
"This is an emotional issue that touches deeply many of our most important ideals and traditions. There are good, earnest and honest people on both sides of the question," Baldacci expressed to the press Wednesday after the signing of LD 1020, "An Act to End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom."
"In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions. I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage," he added.
Baldacci made clear, however, that while the signing of the bill legalized same-sex marriage, it does not force any religious organization to recognize a marriage that falls outside of its beliefs.
"It does not require the church to perform any ceremony with which it disagrees. Instead, it reaffirms the separation of Church and State," Baldacci reported.
Still, the governor acknowledged that his words would likely not be the final ones on the issue.
"Just as the Maine Constitution demands that all people are treated equally under the law, it also guarantees that the ultimate political power in the State belongs to the people," he noted.
Opponents of the new law are currently in the process of organizing a campaign under Maine's people's veto law to force a repeal referendum. The group needs to collect around 60,000 signatures to put the issue to a statewide vote later this year.
In a statement Thursday, the Catholic Diocese in Maine re-declared its intent to work closely with a number of partners in bringing the issue to the voters this November.
"Although the details are still being worked out at this time, we can say with certainty that the Portland Diocese will play a lead role in organizing this petition drive to bring the issue before voters," said Marc Mutty of the diocese, who has been working closely in the legislature on this bill.
Mutty went on to say that he expected a number of prominent national organizations dedicated to preserving marriage to assist Maine in its efforts to restore traditional marriage to its rightful place.