Jump to content
The Talon House

Anti-Gay Campaign In Maine Running Out Of Fire


Recommended Posts

Anti-Gay Campaign In Maine Running Out Of Fire

by Francis X. Quinn, Associated Press

Posted: October 10, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Augusta, Maine) Gay rights supporters and opponents routinely trade barbs, characterizing their adversaries as radical or extremist, with a statewide vote looming just a month away. But the campaign has been superficially quiet to date.

Gov. John Baldacci, who backed the gay rights proposal and signed it into law, has been receiving constituent comments on the issue only about once a week, his office says.

Maine Grassroots Coalition leader Paul Madore, looking to repeal the law, says the foundation of the battle for victory at the polls on Nov. 8 is one-to-one conversation, not a marketing blitz. Media advertising will always be a function of financial resources, he says, but bolstering and expanding a network of repeal advocates is key.

"You have to be strong on the ground. ... We have to rely on personal contact through our volunteers," Madore says.

New campaign finance reports are due this week. According to previous reports, supporters and opponents of a law outlawing discrimination against gays and lesbians raised more than $200,000 earlier this year.

This year's referendum campaign commenced after Baldacci signed a new law in March that would extend the Maine Human Rights Act to make discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations and education.

The act already prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, disability, religion, ancestry and national origin.

A conservative church-led alliance including Madore's grassroots coalition and the Christian Civic League of Maine mounted a successful petition drive seeking a people's veto of the expanded law, filing more than 56,000 signatures.

Low voter turnout is a hallmark of off-year elections and mobilizing potential voters has been the bedrock strategy on both sides.

A statewide poll released in August pegged support of the new gay rights law among Maine voters at three out of five, but gay rights backers say nothing can be taken for granted.

"Until the airwaves are lit up, people won't be focusing on this," says state Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, who co-chairs the Judiciary Committee that forwarded the bill to the full Legislature with a positive, if split, endorsement.

Indeed, commenting on the Strategic Marketing Services results in August, pollster Patrick Murphy predicted, "this election will come down to which of the campaigns is most successful at getting out its core supporters."

The new law would exempt religious organizations that do not receive public funds. Its language also declares that the law is not meant to speak to the issue of gay marriages.

The repeal forces, nonetheless, insist that broadening civil rights protections for homosexuals will grant a new status to gay men and lesbians that could open the door to same-sex marriage.

"That's the bottom line," says Madore.

Hobbins hopes the late addition of statutory wording to say the measure "may not be construed to create, add, alter or abolish any right to marry" will focus debate where he thinks it belongs.

"As it turns, out, that language could be the savior of the bill," Hobbins says.

Maine has a statute that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The state also has created a domestic-partner registry for both same-sex and heterosexual couples that allows them to inherit property and be designated as a guardian or next of kin.

A 1997 law extending gay rights was repealed by a people's veto -- a process through which a law can be overturned by referendum -- the following year. Another legislatively enacted bill that included a referendum provision was defeated by voters in 2000.

Tim Russell, legislative liaison for the Christian Civic League and the Coalition for Marriage, says modern communications methods are important to the repeal advocates.

"We're using the Internet," he says. "That's where we're going to get our word out."

Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Maine Won't Discriminate, says supporters of the pending law also network and raise money on the Internet.

There are plans for paid media, he says, but the off-year balloting is "all about turnout."

The November ballot appears to have no more stirring attraction. Five lower questions will ask voters whether they want to ratify pieces of an $83 million bond issue and another proposes a constitutional amendment that would authorize tax assessments of waterfront land used for commercial fishing activities to be based on the land's current use.

The bond package earmarks $33.1 million for transportation projects, $20 million for economic development and jobs, $9 million for education, $12 million for land conservation and a working waterfront initiative, and $8.9 million for clean water, environment and health projects.

©365Gay.com 2005


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...