While Maine's fight over marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples may not rake in the combined $83 million that California's Prop. 8 battle did a year ago, the Roman Catholic Church is stepping up its role in funding the campaign to put the kibosh on marriage.

Even before Gov. John Baldacci signed the legislation into law in May, one of the most vocal opponents of the marriage equality bill had been the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which oversees the entire state as well as parishes in parts of Massachusetts.

Marc Mutty, a lobbyist for the diocese, worked to dissuade legislators from approving the bill. "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," he wrote in a statement on May 7.

Meanwhile, as Catholic populations continue to decline throughout New England, at least five Maine churches are slated to close by January 2011: two churches in Lewiston, two in Biddeford, and one in Saco. The reason? Dwindling membership and lack of funds.

Still, the church has promised to financially back efforts to do away with same-sex marriage throughout the state.

Tags: World