I am Catholic and I am voting Yes on Question 1. No surprise there. But, before you label me a bigot or a homophobe, let me make a few things clear.

I am an educator and I am not worried about this law’s impact on curriculum. I don’t have an issue with people who identify as gay or lesbian. I am not walking around bashing same-sex couples. I am not opposed to two people committed to a life together having access to the same rights granted to other couples. I do, however, resent the approach this group is taking in order to secure those rights.

The word “marriage” has a long-standing, historical definition as a union between a man and a woman. This word is deeply woven into my religious doctrine. For Catholics, marriage is one of the seven sacred sacraments given by God. To define same-sex unions as marriage not only changes the content of my religious doctrine, but also changes it in a way that is in direct conflict with the teachings of my church. How am I supposed to reconcile that?

Frankly, I am surprised this law hasn’t been challenged as unconstitutional. Although I support equality for same-sex couples, I don’t think they, or the government, have the right to change my religious doctrine. Where is the separation of church and state there?

If the goal is really to secure rights, then efforts should be focused on changing the policies or laws that make access to such rights dependent on “marriage.” Then they would find me campaigning alongside them.

All beagles are dogs, but not all dogs are beagles. Likewise, all marriages are unions but not all unions are marriages. This is not a qualitative statement. I am not saying same-sex couples are not worthy of this title. They simply don’t fit the definition, any more than I can be called Japanese or Jewish.

Blacks didn’t gain equal rights by campaigning to be called “white.” They secured equality proudly, as blacks, in their own right. If same-sex couples are to secure the rights they are currently denied, it should be because it is the right thing to do. They should not need the label of “marriage” to make it happen.

For Gov. John Baldacci to say that civil unions create second-class marriages is to impose his opinion — making it qualitative. It isn’t that, unless you think it is that. There is no such thing as second-class marriage: There is only marriage. To secure rights for same-sex couples by changing the definition of marriage, rather than removing marriage as a barrier, is basically appeasing one important group by oppressing another important group.

Catholics are not bigots. The Catholic Church has a long history of fighting for civil rights for all people throughout the world. But we do take our faith and doctrine seriously.

To ask me to stand by quietly and watch the meaning of my religious doctrine permanently changed in a way that contradicts that very doctrine is like asking me to give up a huge part of my “Catholic-ness.” That is as ridiculous and insensitive as me asking gays and lesbians to give up their “gayness.”

Bonnie Popper lives in Bangor. She has been an educator for 26 years.