Michael Heath, an outspoken group leader instrumental in Maine’s revocation of gay rights, has resigned after a recent period of silence in the Maine gay marriage debate.

As leader of the Maine Family Policy Council, he led people’s vetoes to overturn the state’s gay rights laws, until they were reinstated in 2005 and a second veto attempt failed.

Heath met with controversy the year before after seeking out information via e-mail on Maine’s gay lawmakers. The Council, at that time known as the Christian Civil League, placed him on leave for one month, describing his behaviour as having “crossed a line of ethical behaviour into a realm of sinful gossip.”

Recent wrangling over an upcoming vote to repeal Maine’s gay marriage laws saw very little input from Heath. The Associated Press suggested: “Some of those involved in the campaign to repeal the law felt Heath would have brought too harsh a tone to the campaign.”

Heath mentioned his new plan to travel to Africa to Maine’s Public Broadcasting Network. “We’re excited about a new connection we’ve made in the African nation of Tanzania, and we want to get involved with teaching solar cooking to needy Africans,” he said.

The Maine Family Policy Council on accepting Heath’s resignation described him as a “lightning rod”.