BANGOR — Although the weather was wet and frightful, Paul Fuller got a warm welcome as he walked into the city Saturday.
Fuller is walking the length of the state to urge Mainers to vote no on a Feb. 10 referendum that would block implementation of a 1997 law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
More than two dozen people — and one dog — walked with Fuller across snowbanks and slippery streets from Cascade Park to the Peace and Justice Center in downtown Bangor.
Before embarking on the wet walk, the entourage took part in an odd ceremony — one that also was performed in Van Buren, across the St. John River from St. Leonard, New Brunswick, where Fuller began his 395-mile trek. The group encircled Fuller, raised their arms, turned around three times and shouted “Yada, yada, yada” while waving their hands at the bearded man in the middle.
Fuller, who began his day in Milford, seemed a bit awed by all the attention. A soft-spoken man, the Waldoboro resident said he has been surprised by the positive support he has received so far on his walk, particularly in northern Maine.
“I was very pleasantly surprised by the positive attitude in Aroostook County, because that was one of the few counties that didn’t vote with us last time,” he said while warming up in a truck before walking through town.
Outside Presque Isle, a man traveling in a van with his wife and two children pulled over to shake Fuller’s hand. The man, an American Indian, said he knew discrimination and appreciated what Fuller was doing.
Also in Aroostook County, two older women gave Fuller money to help others so they would not have to live in secrecy as this couple did.
“Those things kept me going for days,” Fuller recalled as he pulled on his mittens and headed into the wet afternoon.
At the center, events were a bit more staid. Fuller was welcomed by Mayor Tim Woodcock, Rep. Jane Saxl, and Susan Davies, academic dean at Bangor Theological Seminary.
Woodcock reminded those sipping hot coffee and tea that the Bangor City Council has gone on the record as opposing all forms of discrimination.
“On February 10, the vote certainly is vote no,” the mayor said.
Davies said she was irked by the fact that some of the state’s Christians act as if they were speaking for all of the state’s religious people in urging a repeal of the 1997 law. The repeal effort was launched by the Maine Christian Civic League, which gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote on whether to block implementation of the law.
“Jesus said nothing about homosexuality or same-sex relationships,” she said. “And he did not qualify his commandment about loving our neighbors by saying love anyone except … the Ku Klux Klan or the Democrats or the Christian Coalition or gay men and lesbian women.”