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Mass. Anti-Gay Petition Supporter Arrested


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Mass. Anti-Gay Petition Supporter Arrested

by Margo Williams 365Gay.com Boston Bureau

Posted: October 16, 2005 8:00 pm ET

(Boston, Massachusetts) Police have arrested a man, who was soliciting names for a petition to ban gay marriage, outside a Pittsfield, Massachusetts supermarket.

It is the latest in a series of complaints about the methods used by Vote On Marriage - an umbrella group made up of the Catholic Church and evangelical groups - who are trying to get a proposed amendment on the 2008 ballot.

The amendment, if approved, would prohibit same-sex marriage and prevent the state from offering civil unions.

Pittsfield police say that the manager of a local Stop & Shop superstore asked to have the man removed when he refused to go voluntarily. The manager said that a number of shoppers complained about the man and the aggressive manner in which he was trying to get them to sign.

Vote On Marriage needs to gather 65,825 signatures by Thanksgiving for the measure to be considered.

The names would need to be verified by the Secretary of State. The proposed amendment would then go to the legislature where it requires the support of 50 members.

When police arrived at the store, the man who identified himself as Jay Taylor of Lewiston, Maine, had set up a table in front of the store and was pressing people "in an aggressive manner" to sign.

Police said that the man told them he was being paid to collect the signatures but that he would not say who was paying him.

When Taylor refused a police order to leave the property he was arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

Stop & Shop is the largest food store chain in New England. A company spokesperson said that it does not take a stand on political issues.

She said that the store manager had received more than 40 complaints from customers, "to the point where he couldn't run his store because he was spending all of his time trying to settle concerns of customers."

Since Vote On Marriage began collecting names there has been a growing number of people who have complained of illegal practices being used.

Some people have complained to authorities while others have contacted newspapers throughout the state. Earlier this month a spokesperson for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, said Reilly's office had received about a dozen complaints. A special investigator has been assigned to follow up on the complaints.

Shoppers at plazas and beer stores say that after signing a separate petition to allow beer and wine sales in grocery stores, they were asked to sign a second petition with little or no explanation. That second petition was the gay-marriage measure.

Vote On Marriage hired a private company, Arno Political Consultants - a firm with ties to Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger - to collect the signatures.

The company has been involved in a number of conservative ballot measures nationwide including the anti-gay marriage amendment in Ohio. That measure passed by a wide margin last year. It has also worked for the Republican National Committee to register GOP voters in Florida.

At the State House, the Joint Committee on Election Laws will hold a special hearing on Oct. 18 to examine the complaints of fraud.

Opponents of the ballot measure say that if the complaints are substantiated it could be grounds for challenging the proposed amendment in court.

©365Gay.com 2005

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