Marriage update – around the states
November 29th, 2010
The 2010 election has changed the dynamic in a few states and presents both opportunities and challenges for supporters of marriage equality. Here are how I see the current landscape:
Hawaii – Neil Abercrombie, the newly elected governor of Hawaii, is a strong advocate for civil unions. Earlier this year the legislature overwhelmingly approved a civil unions bill and such a bill is likely to be presented again.
Illinois – it is expected that the state legislature will vote this week on a civil unions bill during a lame-duck session. There is adequate support in the Senate, but the House vote is uncertain. Should it pass, Governor Pat Quinn, a strong supporter who was just reelected, will sign the bill. This bill seems to be taking on the impression of a Catholic v. Protestant fight, with NOM and the Catholic Bishop serving as the public face in opposition to civil unions, while a great many Protestants ministers have endorsed the bill.
Minnesota – Mark Dayton holds a lead in the governor’s election over anti-gay Tom Emmer, but the election will not be determined until a recount is completed. Republicans took control of both houses of legislature, so no pro-equality bills are expected; but if Dayton is confirmed there also will be no anti-equality bills either.
The one concern might be that Republicans could try and put a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that bans both marriage and civil unions. While that may seem like a great idea to anti-gay activists, Emmer ran a homophobic campaign designed to appeal to those who oppose marriage equality and it does not appear to have been successful. I think it likely that an anti-marriage amendment would pass, but anti-civil unions may be too much, and it is becoming increasingly more risky for anti-gays to make such assumptions. Additionally, attitudes can change dramatically in the next two years.
Meanwhile, three couples are suing the state claiming that laws restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples violate the state constitution. Today, a judge rejected the request of the Minnesota Family Counsel to intervene:
“The Council’s alleged injuries would occur solely due to its sincerely-held belief that principles rooted in its interpretations of religious texts are best for the well-being of children and families, and that marriage only between one man and one woman accords with these principles,” wrote Minnesota Fourth District Court Judge Mary S. DuFrense (PDF). “The Court certainly understands that the Council feels strongly about the social issue of same-sex marriage. Strong feelings, however, do not establish a legal interest in a lawsuit.”
Iowa – after three Supreme Court Justices were denied confirmation, anti-gay activists were celebrating. But as the Senate majority leader has committed to blocking any changes to the Iowa constitution, it is unlikely that marriage will be reversed.
New Hampshire – NOM is crowing that anti-marriage activists have taken over both houses. However, my analysis suggests that any reversal of marriage equality is unlikely. While Republicans took a veto-proof majority, a significant number have already voted against any repeal of the law.
Maine – Republican Paul LePage was elected governor, effectively eliminating any forward movement on marriage equality. However LePage supports the current domestic partnership laws so things will remain status quo for a while.
New York – this one is a big question mark. Incoming Governor Cuomo has promised to get marriage legalized. And after the last vote, state legislators have discovered that “things as they are” may well be the most dangerous position to hold; gay activists refused to play the “any Democrat is better than a Republican” game and set their sites on defeating anti-marriage votes.
Going by last year’s vote count, the current best case scenario is that we are three votes shy of what we need (there are still some undecided elections). However, this time our side is taking to the airwaves to drum up public support, and polls show that New Yorkers support marriage equality. What was a party-line vote last year may well be viewed this year in terms of tolerance and New York values and there may be an entirely different dynamic.
Rhode Island – Former-Republican Lincoln Chafee, who ran as an Independent, beat both the Democrat and the Republican candidates to take governor of the tiny state. And one of his first actions was to inform NOM that their opinion on marriage was not of any value to him. Rhode Islanders support marriage equality, and with Chafee’s backing there is a good chance that RI will be the next marriage state.
Maryland – another contender for next marriage state, Maryland did not suffer party reversal. A plurality of voter support marriage equality, and gay State Sen. Richard Madaleno is guardedly optimistic that marriage will be voted in, perhaps as early as January.
His optimism stems from a number of developments on Election Day 2010, some of which ran absolutely counter to national trends. In the Maryland Senate, Democrats actually expanded their majority to a 35-12 advantage over Republicans. And some Democrats who lost their seats did so in primary fights with more progressive challengers, many of whom vowed to be even stronger champions for marriage equality.
And, of course, all of the above could be impacted by Perry v. Schwarzenegger should the courts find that marriage laws which restrict gay people from participation are contrary to the Due Process or Equal Protections clauses of the 14th Amendement.
NOM loses in Maine, election laws are constitutional
August 19th, 2010
The National Organization for Marriage spent about 1.8 million dollars in Maine in 2009 to successfully support a referendum to block same-sex marriage. But in the process they refused to comply with Maine’s election laws about disclosure of expenditures and donors.
As part of their strategy, NOM sued the state in Federal court, claiming that campaign laws unconstitutionally burdened them and threatened their First Amendment rights to free speech. While this was not specifically tied to the Referendum 1 issue, but rather to NOM’s desire to anonymously fund campaign ads for or against specific candidates, it was their best chance at beating disclosure.
In this suit, they challenged:
* the definition of a Political Action Committee (PAC)
* independent expenditure requirements
* disclosure requirements.
Today District Judge Brock Hornby released his ruling. And – as some news sources are reporting – he agreed that the law is overly broad. But those areas of agreement with NOM were inconsequential to the conclusion: they must report the names of their donors.
Specifically, the judge found that within the language “for the purpose of promoting, defeating or influencing in any way the nomination or election of any candidate to political office”, the words “influencing in any way” were too broad and must be considered stricken from the language. But there is no ambiguity about NOM’s participation so this revision does not in any way impact NOM’s disclosure requirement.
The judge also struck down a requirement that any expenditure of $250 at any time must be disclosed within 24 hours as being unreasonably burdensome. But, again, this has no impact on NOM.
The judge recommended that the legislature tweak the law to adjust for those minor findings. (NPBN)
Anne Luther of the group Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is pleased with the court’s ruling.
“Our first reading of it is that this is 95 percent a vindication of Maine’s PAC reporting laws; that this is by and large upholding our reporting and disclosure laws. It’s entirely constitutional,” Luther says. “The judge carved out two very, very narrow exceptions, one of which may be able to be handled very easily by additional rule-making but these are very very narrow exceptions that leave the vast majority of our PAC reporting for this election coming up entirely intact.”
This is but one more victory leading up to the day that NOM is forced to disclose exactly on whose behalf they are a front. Current speculation is either the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church, but it could be any of several other wealthy but secretive sources.
But this ruling did disclose some information. For example, while they did have about 35,000 “members” last year, the dues from such membership only raised about $350,000, or around $10 each and there are not that many more contributions from small donors. NOM has a budget of about 13 million dollars for 2010. And about 90% of these funds will come in the form of large donors.
NOM is not a grass root organization.
National Organization for Marriage gets paltry welcome in Maine
July 14th, 2010
NOM’s Bus of Animus has rolled into Augusta, ME. And
thousands hundreds a hand full of people came out to greet them and support their wackadoodlery. (WCSH)
The National Organization for Marriage, a group which helped local efforts to overturn Maine’s law, made Augusta its first stop on a 20-city tour, targeting areas where it feels traditional marriage is under attack. Brian Brown, the organization’s executive director, told his crowd of about 50 people that court cases in Massachusetts and in California affect the marriage issue across the country.
Across town, a counter protest pulled in about 150 folks with the Governor making a surprise appearance. (Maine Watch Dog)
Should NOM be as successful in ever stop as they were with the launch of their 29 city tour, they have the potential to reach up to 1,000 people and change
hundreds of dozens of no minds.
Some observations on the Primary results
June 9th, 2010
I’ve not commented much about Democratic candidates in this primary election. For the most part, the major candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for various positions have been supportive of our community, so there were few races in which any particular outcome stood out in importance.
But this has been an interesting season for Republican politics, especially in my home state of California. And yesterday’s election held some moments of victory and some disappointments. Here are a few of my observations about the results.
CA Governor: As expected Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman will face each other in November. Whitman and her opponent Steve Poizner are both fairly moderate on social issues but as Poizner ran his campaign emphasizing that he was a “real conservative”, Meg is probably the better outcome.
Although Whitman has been pilloried in the gay press as “anti-gay”, her positions on gay issues would have her receiving awards for support just a few years ago. Although she voted for Proposition 8, she supports civil unions and her objections to marriage equality seem perfunctory rather than devout. She advocated allowing the 18,000 couples who married in the 2008 marriage window to remain recognized as married.
US Senate from CA: It was disappointing that Tom Campbell did not do well. With 25% of the vote, he fell well below Carly Fiorina’s 55%. This is an undisputed victory for the anti-gay activist group National Organization for Marriage, who had run television ads opposing Campbell.
The slight consolation is that Chuch Devore did even worse than Campbell. Devore was the homophobe’s dream candidate. And Fiorina is probably somewhat moderate on our issues, having established a domestic partnership registry why leading Hewlett Packard.
CA Attorney General: Steve Cooley, a friend of the community who supports marriage equality, swept to victory.
CA Lt. Governor: Democrats selected another community friend, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for their Lt. Governor nominee. Republicans selected Abel Maldenado, the only Republican to vote in the legislature for Harvey Milk Day.
NV Governor: Remember Jim Gibbons? He was the Nevada Governor who vetoed that state’s all-but-the-name domestic partner registry. Well, not only did the legislature overturn his veto last year, but he lost his party’s nomination for reelection to Brian Sandoval, a pro-choice Hispanic Republican who supported the DP bill.
IA Governor: In Iowa, all the Republican candidates are opposed to marriage equality and support “a vote of the people”. But there were degrees. While two of the candidates made wacky claims about what they would do, particularly Bob Vander Plaats who thought he could just issue a declaration and reverse the courts, former Governor Terry Branstad did not give the issue much emphasis in his campaign. Branstad won handily.
ME Governor: NOM is crowing that their choice Paul LePage, a Tea Party favorite, was selected as the Republican nominee for Governor. He will face Maine Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell. This is a particularly important race in November as Maine’s legislature will likely try again for marriage equality and LePage has promised to veto any marriage bills.
There are undoubtedly many other races of importance and as they come to my attention I may add them.
Vengeance Is Mine, Says the Bishop of Portland
March 24th, 2010
I guess the only cheek the Catholic Church in Maine is interested in turning is… well…
Today’s Portland Press Herald reports that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine and the Washington-based Catholic Campaign for Human Development have yanked a $17,400 grant to Portland-based Preble Street’s Homeless Voices for Justice program, and promise to deny an expected $33,000 for next year. The two organizations say that Preble Street violated its grant agreement by supporting Maine’s “No on 1″ campaign last fall.
Maine voters passed Question 1 and banned same-sex marriage by a 53%-47% margin. But despite that victory, the Catholic Church is still looking backwards to punish its “enemies.”
Homeless Voices for Justice is a statewide advocacy group led by people who had been homeless themselves. Preble Street runs several housing programs and other services for the homeless and poor. They also provide staff support for Homeless Voices for Justice.
Nearly half of all Americans live where there is some recognition of same-sex couples
March 3rd, 2010
About 5.1% of Americans (15.5 million) live in areas in which same-sex marriages are legal and equal to opposite-sex marriages: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia.
Another 58.4 million (19.2%) live in states which have either civil unions or domestic partnerships that offer all the rights and protections of marriage without the name: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. To that we can add two more states (New York and Maryland) in which the local state government will honor marriage occurring elsewhere and we have a total of 32.6% of Americans living with the rights and responsibilities of marriage available to their family.
There are also five states which recognize same-sex couples and offer them limited itemized rights. They are Hawaii, Colorado, Wisconsin, Maine, and Rhode Island and they add an additional 14.2 million Americans (4.7%).
But recognition does not stop there. There are dozens more counties and cities who provide what local recognition and benefits as they can, adding another 14.2 million local residents (4.7% of Americans) who can appreciate that their city officials see them as a couple. Local municipalities include the populations of Salt Lake City, UT; Phoeniz AZ; Tuscon AZ; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; Lawrence, KS; Columbia, MO; Kansas City, MO; St. Lewis, MO; Ann Arbor, MI; Cook County, IL (Chicago); Urbana, IL; Cleveland, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Toledo, OH; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Harrisburg, PA; El Paso, TX; Travis County, TX (Austin); Eureka Springs, AK; New Orleans, LA; Carrboro, NC; Chapel Hill, NC; Clarke County, GA (Athens); Fulton County, GA (Atlanta); Broward County, FL (Fort Lauderdale); Key West, FL; Miami-Dade County, FL; and West Palm Beach, FL.
In total about 140 million Americans – about 46% of the nation’s population – live where there is some form of official notice of same-sex couples. So NOM can proclaim “victory” when they have an election in California or Maine, but this ball is rolling and the momentum is in the direction of recognition.
A Maine lesson: think before you go represent me
This commentary is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
January 18th, 2010
I support the right of individuals to get their jollies in pretty much any way that is safe, consensual and adult. As long as you aren’t harming me or anyone else, I don’t care if you get turned on by boots and a sling or a french maid’s outfit. Simply because I might find your fetish to be silly and better suited for a Halloween costume doesn’t mean I think it should be any less legal.
However, if your thing is kink, while I support your rights, you should in turn respect how your behavior impacts my rights. Here are a few should-be-obvious rules to consider:
- If you have to tell the world about the delights of your peculiarities, don’t do so in a way that can be twisted by anti-gays to be an indictment of every gay person. There just aren’t very many ‘special events’ geared towards monogamous vanilla sex so please recognize that your slutty pig ball or feather boa fetishists convention will be perceived as more indicative of our community than it really deserves. Oh, and don’t let Peter LaBarbera and his ubiquitous camera in the door.
- Don’t transfer your fetishes onto your kids. Toddlers don’t need to be at Folsom Street Fair. And it’s not cute (no, it really isn’t) to dress your young ‘uns up in leather. That is simply self indulgent and dances too close to the edge of sexualization of children.
- If during sex play you accidentally shoot anyone in the head, don’t go testify about why you need marriage equality. Just don’t.
Now you’d think that common sense would somehow suggest that maybe, just maybe, you aren’t the right person to testify if you put a bullet in someone’s brain four days before, but apparently this never occurred to Bruce Lavallee-Davidson.
You see, Bruce was playing with some buddies on April 18, 2009 when, ooopsie, someone got shot. (Washington Post)
The fatal shooting happened after [victim Fred] Wilson, Lavallee-Davidson and a third man had been smoking pot, consuming the party drug GBL, huffing aerosol inhalants and having sex over a 12-hour period in the basement of Wilson’s Colonial home in a middle-class neighborhood two blocks from the ocean.
Defense lawyer Tom Hallett told jurors the men had been using guns as part of their sexual play and that the victim was a thrill seeker who may have slipped a bullet into the .44-caliber Rossi revolver unbeknownst to Lavallee-Davidson, who’d previously checked to make sure the gun was unloaded.
Jurors deliberated less than an hour before returning their guilty verdict in Cumberland County Superior Court. Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison in Maine. Because a gun was involved, the minimum sentence is four years, Marchese said.
Yeah, how do you explain that to your “partner” when you get home?
But Bruce thought to himself, I think I’ll go testify in favor of marriage equality. Cuz that’s what I need right now.
So that’s what Bruce did. On April 22, there he was at a public hearing telling the world just how much marriage was important to his life, how much he and his partner were committed.
Umm, no. Bruce is going to be committed, but not in the way he intended. And, of course, there’s nothing quite so juicy to an anti-gay activist than tying our marriage rights to his insane irresponsible druged out lethal orgy.
So if, by chance, you happen to be a guy whose idea of “marriage” is drug fueled sexcapades with strangers in which you kill someone, I don’t really care how much you think its just a spiffy idea to go represent me and my community and argue for my rights. Don’t.
Emrich rants about being connected to “kill gays” bill
December 11th, 2009
Bob Emrich, the leader of the Yes on 1 Campaign in Maine that blocked marriage equality from going into effect, is upset that “homosexual activists/bloggers” have reported that he sent out to his buddies a newspaper article which praised the Uganda “kill gays” bill. So he has sent out a new email to clarify his position (below the jump).
Well, actually, it’s primary purpose is to rail against human rights, defend the “intentions” of those who wrote the “kill gays” bill, and accuse gay people of “say[ing] and repeat[ing] anything in order to promote homosexual behavior while denigrating anyone who dares disagree with them.”
While Emrich says that he does not believe that gay people “should be punishable by death or life imprisonment”, he clearly sympathizes with the motivations of the bill and equates consensual same-sex relationships (like those he opposed in Maine) with “sexual abuse of minors and disabled persons.” It should also be noted that Emrich does not disavow the bill, his support for its intent and motivation, nor the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda or the United States.
Emrich and his campaign have been quick to say anything to discredit, demean, and demonize gay individuals and couples. Yet when he is called on his distribution of an endorsement of evil, he wails and moans that he is a victim of an unwarranted attack.
Were we to adopt the tactics of Bob Emrich and Stand for Marriage Maine, we would use the following ad in the next election in which we are protecting ourselves from attack by anti-gay activists:
[Show anti-marriage ad]
Voiceover: Supporters of Proposition X tell you that they don’t hate gay people, they just want to protect tradition. But opponents of marriage equality never seem to want to stop there.
[show picture of Bob Emrich]
This leader of the anti-gay campaign in Maine went to Uganda immediately after the vote. He came back and sent to all of his supporters a copy of an article which praised legislation in that nation that would punish gay people with a life sentence or with death.
[show picture of a noose]
He said there is an important lesson to learn from Uganda and asked how our culture – the American culture – has lost its way.
[show picture of anti-gay activists]
Although supporters of Propositions like Prop X try and talk about culture and tradition and children, their smiling faces hide a much more sinister agenda, a very un-American agenda.
[Cue picture of happy people going to vote]
On November X, you have a chance to stop them. You can tell them “no”. Vote NO on Proposition X
This could be followed by ads that talk about anti-gays trying to stop health insurance or domestic partnerships in states where they said “we only want to protect marriage”, and other instances in which the anti-gay agenda was pursued after the voters had been lied to.
If, of course, we decided to go that direction.
For more information on the situation in Uganda see our full coverage here.
Maine’s anti-marriage leader commends the Ugandan Kill Gays bill
December 10th, 2009
Bob Emrich is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Bible Church in Plymouth, Maine. He was also a campaign leader and spokesman for Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization primarily responsible for the passage of Question 1 which reversed the Maine Legislature’s law enacting marriage equality. Emrich was, in many ways, the voice and face of the anti-gay marriage movement in Maine.
When campaigning against equality for gay Mainers, Emrich tried to portray himself and his organization as being in favor of traditional marriage rather than being anti-gay.
Emrich said he has tried to keep the emphasis on marriage, rather than on “homosexual behavior.”
“At some point, it’s a personal, private matter,” he said. “There’s an obligation on all of us to try to warn and encourage each other away from destructive behaviors and toward healthy behaviors, but we’re always going to debate what those are. When it comes to public policy, that’s not what this bill is regulating. It’s about something more than that.”
But Emrich’s “personal, private” comments may have only been for public consumption in Maine, and his real goals and desires may be something quite other than what he was willing to admit. In fact, Emrich may well favor draconian laws that enact extreme civil punishment of gay men and women.
And Emrich is part of that previously-unknown but amazingly large collection of conservative evangelical Americans who have been investing time and effort in Uganda.
GoodAsYou.org has a copy of an email sent out yesterday by Emrich to those who share his religious and political views.
I have just recently returned from two weeks in Uganda, ministering the Word among village pastors and Churches. It was a refreshing change of pace from the last year spent on the “marriage referendum”. My trip to Uganda took me away from email, cell phones and the internet (also from electricity, running water, etc.). But I was able to see the Spirit of God working apart from the many distractions that we are faced with every day in Maine. I visited almost 20 remote villages and spent time with the believers. One of the common sentiments expressed there was that “in order to have a healthy village, there must be a strong and healthy church”. That is one of the important lessons we have been learning here as well. We will have more to say about that later. But as I work my way back into ministry here at Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church (Plymouth) and with the Maine Jeremiah Project, I wanted to share the following article I found in Uganda’s largest daily newspaper. I had tucked it into my journal and found it yesterday as I reviewed some of my scribbling. I think it speaks for itself, but I hope you will wonder, as I do, where our own culture lost its way.
The article in question is from New Vision which calls itself “Uganda’s leading website”. It rails against the West and in declining morals. The most relevant part is:
One can now shamelessly stand up and tell you: “I do as I please. You have no business in my affairs.” A sodomist can now swear to you that what they do in the privacy of their bedroom does not concern the public.
No wonder when a brilliant MP comes up with a Bill against homosexuality, the human rights activists baptise him an enemy of the people.
It is high time politicians, religious leaders, cultural leaders and all concerned Africans woke up and defended the African heritage against the moral confusion of Western civilisation. This civilisation is eroding African moral pride.
The so-called human rights activists have hijacked the driver’s seat and are sending nations into the sea of permissiveness in which the Western world has already drowned.
Every evil that has penetrated our society comes disguised as a human right and is watered by a group of elites who have attained education in the West. These elites have come back to impose on us practices that our forefathers deemed abominable.
Emrich wonders where our culture, the Western culture, “lost its way”. There simply is no other possible interpretation than that Emrich extols the ideas in the article and wishes that the United States were more like Uganda in such matters.
Let me be clear. It is virtually impossible that Bob Emrich is unaware of the nature of the Ugandan Kill Gays bill. Surely no one who has any interest in Uganda could possibly have missed news coverage of the proposed death penalty for HIV positive gays, life sentences for others, and incarceration of their friends, family and acquaintances.
Yet, as incredible as it seems, Bob Emrich is suggesting that the West has lost its way and that Uganda has important lessons that we need to learn here. I’m finding it difficult to find any interpretation other than that Bob Emrich, the leader of the Yes on 1 Campaign, endorses recriminalization of homosexuality and may even support execution of gays.
So when they tell you that they don’t hate you and that they are only trying to protect the traditional definition of marriage, remember Bob Emrich.
For full coverage on the recent situation in Uganda see here.
Is this wrongful termination?
December 9th, 2009
Consider for a moment the following scenario.
You work for a private business. An advocacy group issues a statement and sends it to your employer which blames a recent vote on group bias. You respond by sending an email to that group which says:
’Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the [opponents]. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!’
Question: how long would you remain employed?
This occurred in Maine following the passage of Question 1. HRC sent a statement to the press, including the Maine Morning Sentinel in Waterville, Maine.
Larry Grard, a journalist for the Sentinel responded by sending the following email to Trevor Thomas, HRC’s deputy communications director:
’Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!’
Thomas emailed the editor, “I received the below email this morning after our national media release was sent to your team. … It’s frankly, just not acceptable coming from a news organization the morning after our defeat.” Shortly thereafter, with no further communication with HRC, the editor fired Grard.
Grard says it’s “anti-Christian bias”. What do you say?
Catholic Cardinals around the country funded Maine’s Yes on 1 Campaign
November 11th, 2009
From the St. Lewis Post Dispatch
Campaign finance records for a ballot measure that last week defeated a law legalizing gay marriage in Maine show that the St. Louis Archdiocese contributed $10,000 toward that effort.
Only two other dioceses in the country – Phoenix and Philadelphia – contributed more ($50,000). The dioceses of Newark, NJ and Youngstown, Ohio also contributed $10,000.
The Catholic church led the charge to reject the new law. In the quarter leading up to the vote, 45 dioceses around the country contributed a total of $180, 550 to the effort, according to the campaign finance records.
You have to wonder whether the poor Catholic widow in St. Lewis who sacrificed to give to her church knew that her money was going to pay for a political campaign in Maine. Or if the Methodist Maine voter knew that the campaign of lies being fed to him was funded by out-of-state Catholic diocese.
In time, American opinion on the civil rights and freedoms of gay citizens will become strongly supportive. I cannot imagine that it will reflect well on the Catholic Church that it spent church funds to fund campaigns designed to deny rights to some Americans.
Although today many “conservatives” can hide behind popular opinion or social status quo, in 20 years it will be very difficult for the Catholic Church to explain how its actions taken this year can be viewed in any context other than religious oppression and bigotry.
And even today, some may find themselves questioning the priorities of the church.
The contribution from the St. Louis Archdiocese was received by the Portland diocese on July 16.
Less than a month earlier, on June 22, the archdiocese eliminated four positions at Catholic Charities, the largest private provider of social services in Missouri. Catholic Charities president, Monsignor Mark Ullrich, said at the time that the job cuts were “due to our need to economically downsize.”
Choosing exclusionary politics over care for the poor does not yield itself to many PR successes. And if that religious institution wasn’t so dedicated to causing harm to my life, I would feel pity.
AFER: Rights Should Not Be Determined By Political Campaigns
November 4th, 2009
The American Foundation for Equal Rights has released a statement in response to the outcome of Maine’s Question 1. AFER, you may recall, is behind the Federal court challenge to California’s Proposition 8 by attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies. AFER President Chad Griffen’s statement states what ought to be the obvious (no link):
“Our founding fathers did not intend for people’s Constitutional rights to be determined by political campaigns. The results in Maine underscore exactly why we are challenging California’s same sex marriage ban in federal court. When the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia, more than 70 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal rights to every American, and when those rights are violated, it is the role of our courts to protect us, regardless of what the polls say.”
Maine, Gay Rights, and Religion: Can Gay Rights Groups Overcome Their Achilles Heel?
November 4th, 2009
[Justin Lee is Executive Director of The Gay Christian Network, an interdenominational nonprofit organization serving LGBT Christians and changing attitudes in the church. The opinions expressed in this article are solely his own.]
Last night, gay marriage advocates suffered yet another defeat in Maine, in spite of tremendous efforts and optimism.
Today, many of them are asking, “What went wrong?”
The legislature had already passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage, and the governor campaigned in favor of it. Gay marriage supporters, motivated by last year’s defeat in California, had outspent their opponents and worked hard to get out the vote and keep the message positive. Voter turnout was higher than expected, and everyone was optimistic.
So why, in a progressive state like Maine, in a country that so values civil rights, in a world where gay people are highly visible in the media and daily life–why did people turn out in droves to vote against what so many in our community see as a basic civil right?And why have they done so every other time it’s been on the ballot, in 30 other states across the nation?
There’s no single answer, but the simplest one can be summed up in one word: religion.
Religious organizations have poured millions of dollars into campaigns against same-sex marriage. Pastors preach against it every Sunday in churches across America. Ask people who oppose gay marriage why they do so, and you will regularly hear religious arguments and Bible quotes. In the aftermath of Prop 8 in California, much was made of the apparent racial divide in how people voted, but more telling was the impact of the Mormon Church and other religious groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Already, pundits are noting that 37% of Maine’s population is Roman Catholic, a statistic that likely influenced the outcome.
Frankly, anti-gay religious beliefs are the number one obstacle to almost every measure gay rights groups tackle. The single skill that could turn the tables in their favor is the ability to effectively reach people of faith.
So why are so many gay rights groups so shockingly ineffective on matters of faith?
Part of the problem is that many of us in the LGBT community have been so beaten down by religion that we now want nothing to do with it. Worse, some of us have come to see religious faith itself as the enemy.
But even if you have no faith of your own, if you think you’re going to take on American organized religion and win, you’re dead wrong. The vast majority of Americans believe in God, most subscribing to some version of the Christian faith. For many of them, their faith is deeply ingrained and a major influence in their lives. If we allow any issue to be set up as a contest between people’s faith and fair treatment of LGBT people, then we’ve lost already.
The Human Rights Campaign recognized this in 2005 when they created a “Religion and Faith Program” following crushing defeats in 11 state constitutional-amendment battles. Other LGBT groups have also reached out to faith communities in recent years. But it’s not enough. For real change to happen, there are four things the LGBT community must do.
1. Engage people of faith.
Anti-LGBT faith leaders want us to think this is a contest between faith and us. Don’t believe them. There are plenty of devoutly religious Americans who support the LGBT community, and we need to engage them and make sure they’re part of the discussion. Avoiding the subject only hurts us.
And it’s not just our supporters we need to engage, either. We must reach out to those who disagree with us. Remember Stephen Covey’s aphorism, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”? Even those who condemn gay relationships as sinful may still find common ground with us on civil issues if we take the time to understand them and help them understand us.
I should know. I grew up Southern Baptist, came out of the closet, and have spent over a decade building bridges with conservative evangelical Christians, a group many of my LGBT peers have written off as a “lost cause.” The truth is, they’re not homophobic monsters. There are many good, intelligent people in even the most conservative faith groups, and interacting with LGBT people is the only way they’ll grow to understand us.
In his 1993 book A Place at the Table, gay author Bruce Bawer wrote of some gay activists, “They think that their enemy is conscious oppression and that their salvation lies in the amassing of power, when in fact their enemy is ignorance and their salvation lies in increased understanding.” Sixteen years later, the observation is just as true.
2. Think beyond politics.
Yes, some LGBT rights groups are already reaching out to supportive faith communities as part of their overall strategy. But it’s not good enough to simply start with a political goal (say, a piece of legislation) and then shoehorn the faith community in. Those of us in the faith community are good for a lot more than just helping get out the vote.
Think for a moment: If the LGBT community truly has an “agenda,” isn’t it really for current and future generations of LGBT people to be treated fairly, able to live as we see fit, without fear of harassment, violence, and discrimination? That’s a big goal, and achieving it will take more than political action.
To be sure, legislation is an important part of changing the future for the better. But no bill or ballot initiative can eliminate homophobia, hate, or prejudice. Increasing the penalties for hate crimes won’t stop them if churches are preaching hate. And federal marriage rights won’t stop a gay kid from being pressured into a loveless straight marriage by his parents or church.
If we want to make the world a safe place for the next generation, we must do more than change the laws. We must change the culture. So instead of thinking of people of faith as just another voting pool, we need to think about all the ways that faith impacts culture, and how supportive people of faith can help make those changes. Because even if your goals are exclusively political, it’s worth noting that culture shapes the political landscape in big ways.
3. Listen to faith leaders.
As executive director of an LGBT-supportive Christian nonprofit, I’m often in contact with supportive faith leaders from across the country. Over and over again, I’ve heard stories from faith leaders who want to make a positive difference for the LGBT community but feel that their input or support somehow isn’t valued by leaders in the broader movement. But if anti-LGBT religious beliefs are one of the biggest obstacles we face, shouldn’t these supportive faith leaders be some of our top advisors?
Too often, we treat faith leaders as pawns in a political chess game, bringing them out for a photo opportunity or asking them to sign a letter in support of a cause. They are capable of so much more. They have insights into how people within their faith group think, and they could help us build strategies to reach those people. In some cases, they may already have strategies in place that need our help to be implemented. We just need to ask them and sincerely listen to what they have to say.
4. Tailor the message.
A politician running for office doesn’t just give the exact same speech over and over; he or she tailors it to the audience. A union representing blue collar workers in the deep South has different concerns from a group of wealthy business leaders in Los Angeles.
The same holds true for people of faith. Different faiths, denominations, and sects have different beliefs and different concerns. Reaching each of them requires learning to understand them and speak their language.
A common mistake many LGBT groups make is to simply put together an interfaith “panel” of leaders to represent many different faith traditions, then have them give a joint statement of some sort and think they’ve reached the faith community. But this approach is most likely to appeal to those who already supported the cause in the first place, not to win new converts.
Instead, it’s important to work within different faith traditions individually. A devout Mormon needs to hear from other devout Mormons, not from a Catholic priest. Even within the same faith, people care much more what leaders in their particular sect have to say; not all rabbis are equally influential with all Jews, for instance. This is why it’s so important to work directly with many different people of faith, because each can change minds that others can’t.
Yes, the world is changing. And we can build a brighter future for the next generation. But among other things, it’s going to take a more deliberate effort by the LGBT community to reach people of faith.
The Day After Election Day
November 4th, 2009
Feelings will be running raw this morning. Having yet another state placing a portion of its own citizenry in the second-class column is never easy to take. There will be plenty of time for post-mortems; I guess you could say I’ve already gotten a jump on mine before the campaign was over.
But I think it’s very important to keep in mind what Protect Maine Equality has been able to do. They have put together one of the most outstanding grass-roots efforts I’ve ever seen in a political campaign, and for that they’ve provided a road map for future campaigns to follow. Nobody has done a better job at motivating thousands of individuals to give of their time, and nobody has put together a better get-out-the-vote effort. The fact that the vote was this close is a testament to those great accomplishments.
Meanwhile, we have an important victory in Kalamazoo, where the religious right pulled out all the scare tactics at their disposal to try to defeat a non-discrimination ordinance. It didn’t work. The ordinance was upheld by 7,671 to 4,731 — 62% voted for equality in Kalamazoo, which is now the sixteenth city in Michigan with a non-discrimination ordinance.
Meanwhile, Washington’s Referendum 71 is holding on by a razor-thin margin. The Seattle Times says that it looks promising, since most of the outstanding votes are in areas where the measure was passing. Washingtonians vote by mail, and since the law requires that ballot be postmarked by election day, they will continue to trickle in during the days to come.
In Houston, openly lesbian mayoral candidate Annise Parker will go up against Gene Lock for a December 12 runoff. Openly gay Mark Kleinschmidt was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Charles Pugh garnered the highest number of Detroit city council votes among all the city-wide at-large candidates to become that city’s first gay city council president. And in New Jersey, New York, and the District of Columbia, legislative battles are heating up for marriage equality.
There are steps forward and steps back. The struggle isn’t over. We lost this one, but we pick ourselves up and go on to the next one. Our community has forged a unique strength that way, and we’ve learned to do this in ways we didn’t want to, whether it was to respond to Governmental censorship, employment bans, Anita Bryant, the AIDS crisis when nobody else could be bothered, or these state-by-state ballot initiatives. They do wear us down, but they don’t wear us out. We pick each other up, dust ourselves off, and we go on to the next battle. It’s what we do.
Maine Question 1 Results
Timothy Kincaid and Jim Burroway
November 3rd, 2009
575 precincts reporting (95%)
Yes: 293,228 – 52.90%
No: 261,071 – 47.10%
With a final tally like this, I think this should probably put talk of a recount to rest. We lost this one, and it really hurts badly.
523 precincts reporting (86%)
Yes: 266,324 – 52.75%
No: 238,595 – 47.25%
Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Maine voters stood for equality, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
I am proud of the thousands of Mainers who knocked on doors, made phone calls and talked to their family, friends and neighbors about the basic premise of treating all Maine families equally.
And I’m proud of this campaign because the stories we told and the images we shared were of real Mainers — parents who stood up for their children, and couples who simply wanted to marry the person they love.
We’re in this for the long haul. For next week, and next month, and next year– until all Maine families are treated equally. Because in the end, this has always been about love and family and that will always be something worth fighting for.
Thank you. Thank you for everything you did. Thank you for digging deep and giving one more dollar to run our TV ads, for making those phone calls for one more hour. This campaign was, from the beginning, powered by people like you who rolled up their sleeves and did the hard work of change.
523 precincts reporting (86%)
Yes: 265,189 – 52.74%
No: 237,638 – 47.26%
It’s still close, and a lot of precincts have not yet reported — with the Portland are, being the most significant, and the most pro-NO.
509 precincts reporting (84%)
Yes: 256,671 – 52.60%
No: 231,314 – 47.40%
The No On 1 campaign manager, Jesse Connolly, just went down with us to the ballroom and announced that the race is too close to call and they are still counting. The counting could continue well into the morning. There will be no concession or declaration of victory, it appears, tonight. Things are extremely tight and no news media so far has called the race either.
502 precincts reporting (83%)
Yes: 251,213 – 52.41%
No: 228,079 - 47.59%
Rex Wockner says the No on 1 campaign is not conceding:
[12:26 a.m.] Campaign Director Jesse Connolly says absentee ballots have not been counted, and neither have towns and villages.
497 precincts reporting (82%)
Yes: 248,965 – 52.39%
No: 226,239 – 47.61%
483 precincts reporting (80%)
Yes: 242,158 – 52.47%
No: 219,389 – 47.53%
475 precincts reporting (79%)
Yes: 237,749 - 52.32%
No: 216,667 – 47.68%
463 precincts reporting (77%)
Yes: 231,273 – 52.22%
No: 211,634 – 47.78%
Adam Blink says that No on 1 is preparing for a recount and has the run-down on the process (at update 46):
- The campaign has to wait for certification from the Sec of State, which will happen after all absentee ballots come in. In Maine, there is a no-excuse absentee ballot law and she expects there to be a “significant” number of absentees.
- The certification takes a maximum of 20 days but is almost always done before then. The campaign has to pay a nominal fee (ranging from a few hundred bucks to $10K but more likely to be a few hundred) depending on how close the vote is.
- The recount is statewide, all or nothing. Not challenging individual precincts.
- Based on past experience, the recount will take at least a few weeks and likely longer than that.
459 precincts reporting (76%)
Yes: 228,140 – 52.13%
No: 209,520 – 47.87%
451 precincts reporting (75%)
Yes: 223,841 – 51.99%
No: 206,741 - 48.01%
439 precincts reporting (73%)
Yes: 219,747 – 51.86%
No: 203,956 – 48.14%
424 precincts reporting (70%)
Yes: 214,182 – 51.83%
No: 199,036 – 48.17%
395 precincts reporting (65%)
Yes: 197,471 – 51.59%
No: 185321 – 48.41%
Adam Blink is reporting from the No on 1 campaign: “After talking with some people here, based on projections from the campaign and looking at the rural numbers starting to trickle in, there is a very, very good chance of a recount, and we’re making preparations for that.”
350 precincts reporting (58%)
Yes: 175,990 – 51.29%
No: 167,158 – 48.71%
There appears to be a lull in reporting (Timothy)
172 precincts reporting (28%)
Yes: 74,802 – 50.51%
No: 73,293 – 49.49%
132 precincts reporting (22%)
Yes: 55,267 – 49.38%
No: 56,659 – 50.62%
100 precincts reporting (17%)
Yes: 35,892 – 47.70%
No: 37,891 – 51.30%
82 precincts reporting (14%)
Yes: 29,575 – 47.51%
No: 32,670 – 52.51%
The larger cities are now beginning to report in. (Jim Burroway)
32 precincts reporting (5%)
Yes: 12,524 – 45.42%
No: 14,988 – 54.48%
The larger cities are now beginning to report in. (Jim Burroway)
15 precincts reporting (2%)
Yes – 3,837 – 50.67%
No – 3,736 – 49.33%
And there’s the first sign of bad news. As the night goes on we should expect shifts in both directions. We can only hope and pray that in the end that Mainers decided to be good citizens and neighbors.
6 precincts reporting:
No – 2,064 – 61.70%
Yes – 1,281 – 38.30%
Still WAY too early to mean anything at all. But at least it is nice to start the night in the right position.
Two precincts reporting:
No – 45 – 88%
Yes – 6 – 12%
Can’t we just quit counting now?
A Hopeful Sign in Maine
November 3rd, 2009
The Secretary of State is reporting that voter turnout is much higher than expected. Common wisdom suggests that this will be beneficial to supporters of marriage equality as the “usual midterm election” voters tend to skew older and more conservative.
Maine’s Clear Choice
October 31st, 2009
The Maine Message
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the opinions of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
October 29th, 2009
Stand For Marriage Maine’s “positive” feel-good approach didn’t last long. They have a new ad out:
Notice how it’s loaded with all the bad stuff that you care about — out-of-state militant activists corrupting your values, gay teachers pushing their agenda on your children, militant gay activists in your schools and even your daycare centers. “IT’S ALREADY HAPPENED HERE! DON’T BE FOOLED!”
Here’s Protect Maine Equality’s response:
In a nutshell: please help someone else.
Frank Schubert, who is running the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign has recognized something that is very fundamental in all politics. Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Niel famously said that all politics are local. Schubert recognized that politics aren’t just local, but personal. It hinges on the question, “How will this affect me?” Karen Ocamb’s brilliant analysis of the California campaign which Schubert ran, which should be mandatory reading for everyone, describes very carefully how Schubert came to this conclusion:
During the Prop 8 Case Study workshop, Schubert said he, Flint and their team spent hours “looking at where people were and what we needed to do to reach them.”
What they found was that most Californians were very tolerant of same sex relationships. Schubert said:
“They didn’t see how gay marriage effected them, per se. It wasn’t their issue. It wasn’t something they cared to think about. It wasn’t something they wanted to talk about. It was an uncomfortable subject generally for them event to get their arms around.”
If we really want to win these battles, we need to begin with an understanding of this important truth:
Nobody Cares About Same-Sex Marriage
Oh, sure, people care about it. Everyone has an opinion about same-sex marriage. But nobody cares about in the sense that it is something that just doesn’t affect them.
Sure, virtually everyone who is gay and out cares. That’s about 4% of the population, and maybe not even that much in Maine. And the anti-gay religious right cares about it also, for whatever personal stake they’ve managed to take in it. That’s a much higher percentage, but it’s not even close to being a majority.
For everyone else, same-sex marriage is just not on their radar. And if they do care, it doesn’t rise to the level of other things they care about more and are willing to invest more of their attention to: education, taxes, health insurance, the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those are the things people care about and are willing to invest their own personal attention and energy to. They care enough to learn more about these things because one way or another, they all touch on them personally. As Schubert’s research revealed:
“At the end of the day, people vote on issues based on how they think it will impact them and their families. We spent a great deal of time trying to understand what impacts could we develop that would work. Communication has to be aimed at and appeal to those self interests of the electorate.” [Emphases mine]
And people don’t see how same-sex marriage will impact them and their families — especially not enough to pay attention to the issue and go out and vote in an off-year election on someone else’s problem. This, by the way, is just as much a problem for the “Yes” side as it is for the “No” side. So how do you fix it?
Change the topic from something nobody personally cares about to something everyone cares about.
That’s right. In California (and in Maine), it meant taking an election about something nobody cares about (gays being allowed to marry) and making it about something that everyone cares about (for example, education). Again, Karen quotes Schubert with the a-ha moment:
“What the research showed was that we could not win by simply affirming traditional marriage. People said, ‘Yeah, OK – but what’s the problem here. How does this impact me?’…. This forced acceptance [by the court] that gay marriage was now mandatory was a big deal – the consequences – specifically regarding religious freedom, religious expression and teaching of gay marriage in schools – and the education consequences become the most powerful in the course of the campaign.
We bet the campaign on consequences – especially on education. Education from the beginning – while it was one of three consequences – it was the one that was the most emotionally charged and the most powerful. And I remember testing an ad in focus groups in Southern California….[One ad was} with the Wirthlin couple from Massachusetts. She’s telling the story of her son Joey - about he’s being taught how a prince can marry another prince – and he’s in second grade.
There's an African American gentleman in this group watching the ad [who] just shakes his head. So I [told the researcher to] ask him what he meant. And the guy says, ‘I’ll tell you what, if that happened to me – I would be pissed.’
And that was the moment that we decided that the campaign would rely on education.”
You could argue, then, that California’s Prop 8 wasn’t about same-sex marriage, but about education. And it worked. People don’t care personally one way or another about same-sex marriage, but everyone cares deeply about education. And so Schubert made it about education; education is what people discussed and debated, and on election day people voted about education because that was what the election came to be about because it is what they personally cared about.
And it should come as no surprise that Stand for Marriage Maine is working precisely the same strategy in Maine. They are making the election about education, a subject that everyone cares about.
Protect Maine Equality running a masterful grass-roots effort and one of the best get-out-the-vote campaings I’ve ever seen. Their success in earned media (op-eds, television and press coverage) has been outstanding. As of Monday, they are also enjoying a lead in the polls (Update: But this new poll shows them at a dead heat). There is so much that they’re getting exactly right, and win or lose, they have a lot to teach other campaigns.
But in their messaging, they are responding by trying to get people to care about something that fundamentally doesn’t affect them one way or another. That worries me in the closing days of the campaign. I really hope they know what they’re doing.
Maine AG to NOM: “What Is There To Hide?”
October 29th, 2009
As we reported a Federal Judge ruled against a lawsuit by the National Organization for Marriage claiming that Maine’s reporting requirements for ballot question campaigns are unconstitutional. In addition, the Judge ruled that Maine voters have a legitimate right to know how those campaigns are raising money and who’s behind it. That led Maine’s attorney general to challenge NOM to comply with the law before next week’s election.
Bolstered by the ruling, Maine’s attorney general challenged the advocacy group Wednesday night to make its records public before next week’s vote on Question 1.
“We are not going to give them legal advice. We trust that their legal counsel will advise them to comply fully,” said Attorney General Janet Mills. “The court has ruled that it is in the public interest to do so, and the law couldn’t be clearer.
“I would hope that they would file before the election,” Mills said. “Why not? What is there to hide?”
Judge Declares NOM Not Above The Law
October 28th, 2009
A federal judge has denied a request by the National Organization for Marriage for a temporary restraining order to suspend Maine’s campaign reporting requirements for ballot initiatives. NOM is currently footing nearly two-thirds of the total bill for Stand for Marriage Maine’s effort to pass Question 1. NOM complained that because they were not a Maine-based group, that they should be exempt from what they consider to be overbearing regulations for Political Action Committees. The court disagreed (PDF: 187KB/32 pages):
Maine’s compelling interest in ensuring that the electorate knows who is financially supporting the views expressed on a particular ballot question cannot be satisfied by one-time reporting. Instead, Maine is entitled to conclude that its electorate needs to know, on an ongoing basis, the source of financial support for those who are taking positions on a ballot initiative. It will not do to say that a one-time disclosure in the week before the election is sufficient. That would not give the opposing viewpoint the opportunity to point out the source of the financing and seek to persuade the electorate that the source of support discounts the message.
This means that the Ethics Commission investigation will go forward, although the results will not likely be available before election day.