Steven Guillotte, director of pastoral services at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, said he put up the message "Two Men are Friends Not Spouses" Tuesday morning.
The reaction came quick, with three signs found posted on church property Wednesday. One urged people to "Pray for Death" and another made a derogatory sexual reference to the Virgin Mary, The Standard-Times, New Bedford, reported.
Joshua Scribner, 25, of New Bedford, who is gay, told the newspaper, "I couldn't even believe that a church would put that."
Alisha Lemieux, 18, a New Bedford resident who is bisexual, found the sign upsetting.
"That made it a little more difficult to accept being who I am," she said.
A couple of protesters also showed up outside the church to express their displeasure with the sign.
Guillotte said he was surprised by the reaction.
"I didn't calculate reaction into it because, to be honest with you, we're a Catholic institution and our responsibility is to speak out on behalf of Christ," he said.
Monsignor Gerard O'Connor said the church's letter board message was changed Wednesday but that it was unrelated to the controversy. He acknowledged the protesters' right to make their views known, but said the church has the same right.
"I thought we had freedom of religion, freedom of speech," he said. "Show your point of view. But why couldn't we?"