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Posts for April, 2012

Maine’s marriage opponents are off to a perfect start

Timothy Kincaid

April 9th, 2012

Today the opponents of equality took efforts to ensure that Maine’s gay couples will soon achieve equality. That isn’t, of course, what they intended, but – being delusional – their misguided efforts can only work to our advantage. As we noted earlier today, the rhetoric employed by the wackadoodle Paul Madore and Mike Heath can only serve to our advantage.

And here is a sampling of news coverage they’ve received about their kick-off at a college campus on Pride Week:

Boston’s more conservative paper, the Herald reports

Madore said he opposes legalizing same-sex marriage because he considers it an attack on religious liberties. He further said homosexuality represents a “culture of death” because of its links to AIDS and because it “doesn’t bring forth life.”

In a press release, Madore characterized pride week as a time when students and faculty are encouraged to be proud of “sexual deviance.”

In the AP story, the reporter’s wry observations clearly express his opinion of Madore and Heath’s credibility.

As the name implies, the goal of the No Special Rights PAC is to convince voters that allowing members of the same sex to get married amounts to “special rights,” Heath said.

“There’s no basis in nature for a right to sodomy or a right to call two men or two women who are choosing to relate to one another sexually as a marriage,” he said. “There’s no intrinsic or natural right to that. So we believe that these are special rights.”

Heath and Madore’s PAC has yet to raise any money, and the amount of funds raised will determine what it does during the campaign, Heath said.

And the Bangor Daily News reporter happily relayed the impact of the Special Rights effort.

Michael Heath and Paul Madore, the PAC’s leaders, argued that Maine voters were being intimidated to change their minds after a similar gay marriage referendum failed in 2009.

Madore said gay marriage advocates are turning to the legal system to “force people to accept the homosexual lifestyle.”

The men distributed pledges to passers-by that ask potential voters to oppose “sodomy-based marriage” in November and contribute to the political action committee.

“We intend to take the gloves off,” said Madore, adding that he expects his group will be heavily outspent by gay marriage supporters.

About an hour after the press conference, a group of UMaine students, officials and faculty stood around a flagpole on the mall and cheered and applauded as a rainbow flag was hoisted into the air.

Evan McDuff, president of UMaine’s Wilde Stein Alliance for Sexual Diversity, said he was pleased that the demonstrations and announcement from the anti-gay marriage political action committee all occurred around the same time.

“It’s always good to have discussion, right?” McDuff said with a grin.

It seems no one sent a photographer to the press event.

In 2009, Micheal Heath was sent packing by the coalition who was funding and organizing the opposition to marriage. He was considered a liability and his speech far too incendiary to be affiliated with the movement. But Heath seems to be the primary leader of the anti-marriage position this time around.

And it’s still early. It may be that the Catholic Church assigns someone with a brain to fight their battle and sends Heath packing again. But it may also be true and anti-gay power-players see this as a losing battle and have turned the cause over to the loons.

Marriage Opponents in Maine Will Only Make Our Work Easier

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2012

Remember when I said that anti-gay activist Mike Heath’s return to Maine was great news for advocates of marriage equality? Heath and Paul Madore announced plans for a news conference on the campus of the University of Maine. Their press release, I presume, tells you what their message will be:

“It’s time to get serious with society on the issue of homosexuality and the practical effects that are very harmful to society that this distorted and perverted lifestyle will have. It’s time to take the gloves off,” said Paul Madore. “Good people just keep moving the line back regarding homosexuality. But not anymore.”

Madore continued, “Maine people are coming together to say ‘enough is enough.’ Marriage does not belong to homosexuals. It never has and it never will. Even if people get tired of saying no, and end up caving on the issue.”

“On that note,” said Madore, “The only reason why the number of supporters for same sex ‘marriage’ may be increasing is because people are sick and tired. Homosexuals have made people sick and tired. Homosexuals have absolutely nothing good to contribute to family life, which is what marriage is all about. A sterile union (between same sex couples) is never in need of marriage, and has nothing good to contribute to marriage or family life – absolutely nothing.”

And sure enough, Madore and Heath lived up to their promise:

The men distributed pledges to passers-by that ask potential voters to oppose “sodomy-based marriage” in November and contribute to the political action committee.

I do hope “sodomy-based marriage” remains their talking point all the way up to the election. I even hope they can get TV air-time. If they become the face of the opposition to marriage equality, they’ll end up having about as much success as Scott Lively had back in the old Measure 9 days in Oregon.

Update: It only gets better. ThinkProgress has a copy of the pledge. Items 3 and 11 are priceless:

3. Use the term “Sodomy Based Marriage” and avoid the deceptive terms “same sex or gay  marriage.”

11. Pray that God will deliver our State and Country from this attack by demonic force, and that marriage between man and woman will be restored to its rightful place of honor, to the glory of Almighty God.

Michael Heath Returns To Maine

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2012

Michael Heath, an anti-gay radical and former head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, has announced that he is forming a No Special Rights PAC to oppose the November ballot proposal to re-legalize marriage equality.

This is great news. Heath is so radical and off the charts, that he was prevailed upon to resign in 2009 because he was too much of a “lightning rod” when anti-gay activists began gearing up to repeal the recently-passed marriage equality bill. He went from there to do an (ahem!) stellar job for Ron Paul’s Iowa Campaign. Under Heath’s watch, the campaign trumpeted endorsements from one pastor who wanted gay people dead, followed by another pastor who wanted gay people dead, with both endorsements proudly displayed on the campaign web site.

Heath, who once said that the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 was the result of gay marriage. In announcing the new PAC in Maine, co-founder Paul Madore said that he and Heath are ready to “take off the gloves” in the November campaign. Heath gave a preview of No Special Rights’ message:

“There’s no basis in nature for a right to sodomy or a right to call two men or two women who are choosing to relate to one another sexually as a marriage,” he said. “There’s no intrinsic or natural right to that. So we believe that these are special rights.”

Heath’s entry into the Maine campaign is best news we could hope for in Maine’s upcoming fight for marriage equality.

It’s on in Maine

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2012

It is official. The Secretary of State has reviewed the signatures and confirms their adequacy. In November, Maine voters will decide whether that state will recognize the rights of gay citizens to be treated equally by their government in marriage.

Voting on marriage equality is not a new thing. Thirty some states have already done so and four more are likely this year. But for the first time, the vote has been initiated by gay and supportive residents. And rather than the message being “stop those gay people from having rights”, it will be a positive “please recognize my rights.”

NOM reporting requirement upheld

Timothy Kincaid

February 1st, 2012

The first marriage news of the day is a good start.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston has upheld the decision that the National Organization for [Catholic] Marriage must follow campaign reporting requirements. This is no surprise but it is welcome.

Of course they will not do so. And so it’s off to the Supreme Court.

NOM Loses Another Attempt To Flout Campaign Laws

Jim Burroway

August 12th, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage lost two more court cases yesterday when the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected their bid to avoid complying with Rhode Island’s and Maine’s campaign disclosure laws. NOM had asked a federal district judge to exempt them from Rhode Island’s requirement that they disclose money they spent to support various candidates. This case involves NOM’s support for political candidates. A separate case in Maine concerning NOM’s support for a ballot question that overturned Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009 is still pending before the First Circuit Court. A lower court had upheld Maine’s financial disclosure laws concerning ballot measures.

Three Important Questions To Ask Before Mounting A Campaign To Overturn A Marriage Ban

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2011

The respected analyst Nate Silver has a major piece at The New York Times’ blog about the prospects for marriage bans if they were brought up today on the ballot. It’s worth a read. He uses two models based on public opinion polls, and based on those models, he says that in Maine, where LGBT advocates have announced a drive to place marriage equality back on the ballot for 2012, voters are predicted to approve same-sex marriage just three years after rejecting it by about six percentage points. But it’s worth recalling that in 2009, Silver also thought the ban on same-sex marriage would fail:

When we last discussed this model, it gave Maine’s Question 1 — which reversed the State Legislature’s decision to provide for same-sex marriage — a 3-in-4 chance of being defeated. In fact, the measure won and same-sex marriage was repealed in Maine, although the results were close and within the model’s margin of error. (There’s more discussion of the Maine result here.)

He’s done a lot of tweaks to his model since then, and he now believes that Maine — and California — would have a shot at overturning their marriage bans. According to Nate’s analysis, Maine has a better prospect of overturning its ban than California does. But the one thing that his model cannot predict is the effectiveness of the two particular campaigns — the pro-equality and anti-gay sides — to shape the messages and motivate voters who are much more interested in other things. And the other thing to keep in mind, is that this is only a model. Models can only try to predict the future, about the same way your local meteorologist tries to predict the future, using very sophisticated computer models based on weather patterns. There still remains that nasty margin of error, and Silver doesn’t disclose the possible impacts of that error.

But even if the models were perfect, it’s still up to the campaigns themselves to turn those predictions into reality. And as I mentioned yesterday, it’s worth raising the questions of what kind of a campaign they intend to run this time around. I’m sure Maine’s LGBT advocates have learned quite a few lessons since 2009, but if they are relying on the perception that they’ve changed a lot of minds in their d0or-to-door grassroots campaigns since then, then I worry that we are setting ourselves up for a very expensive fall again.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support every LGBT American who is willing to stand up and fight for our rights. Maine has my complete support. But I think that a key part of supporting a campaign is the ask the hard questions, particularly where we’ve seen mistakes before. And the biggest mistakes we have made in the past, we’ve made repeatedly, not just in Maine.

Mistakes is a loaded word, so let me clarify further: in raising these issues, it’s not my intention to question the commitment or competence of those who ran past campaigns. They worked their hearts out, and did the best jobs they could possibly do with the information they had at that time. The mistakes that were made were not, I believe, a reflection of their competence — when those mistakes are made the first time. But if they are repeated again, then it will truly be the case that we only have ourselves to blame.

Having said that, I think the mistakes we made in the past centered on three critical questions we failed to ask.

Question 1: What do voters really care about?

Here’s the first hint: It’s not same-sex marriage. Frank Schubert, who ran the Maine’s 2009 anti-gay campaign as well as the California’s pro-Prop 8 campaign recognized that fact early on. As former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Niel famously said, 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 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.”

Karen wrote that analysis in 2009 as a warning to Maine, a warning that was not heeded. I still think her analysis is just as germane today as it was two years ago. If we really want to win these battles, we need to begin with an understanding of this important but uncomfortable truth: Nobody cares about same-sex marriage.

Yes, I exaggerate. Everyone has an opinion about same-sex marriage. But nobody cares about it in the personally imperative sense simply because it is something that just doesn’t affect them. A lot of people care about global warming, but we’re not exactly seeing hybrid and electric cars flying off the dealers’ lots or solar panels sprouting on rooftops.

When people go to the pols, we cannot expect them to base their vote on altruism. People vote on how an issue affects them personally. And until we make the issue about something they have a personal stake in rather than a relatively abstract notion of fairness and equality (both are politically meaningless concepts: even bigots think they’re fair and open-minded), we’re not going to really get their attention.

Question 2: What do voters really care about?

That question is the same as question 1. Notice a pattern here? I’m repeating it because successful elections are all about how to get a voter to be motivated by something he or she really cares about — something personal. Schubert understood that if voters didn’t care about marriage — which most of them personally don’t have a stake in –  they could be made to care about something else. That something else in both California and Maine turned out to be education. And so California and in Maine, Schubert took an election about something nobody cares about (gays being allowed to marry) and made it about something that everyone cares about. 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.

Nate Silver’s models are based on whether people want to ban same-sex marriage. But it asks the wrong question. If he had asked whether schools want to “teach homosexuality in the schools,” he would get a very different answer. That’s why Schubert changed the question in voters’ minds.

Now you know that the issue of education was a red herring, and I know that the issue of education was a red herring, but voters don’t know that. And the beauty of that strategy is this: false charges and fears can be implanted in a little as thirty seconds, but they have an exceptionally long shelf life. Remember Willie Horton? Those adds ran twenty three years ago! Maine voters remembered the education issue very well, but I’m sure they’ve forgotten the pro-equality’s answer to that.

Question 3: What do voters really care about?

Voters care about a lot of things. They care about jobs, taxes, the economy, education (still), foreign wars, immigration — all kinds of things. They don’t care about equality because too many of them think that we have it already through other means. And they don’t get motivated by being preached to about fairness because they think they are already fair. Campaigns aren’t opportunities to teach voters what they don’t know, but rather the time to confirm to voters what they already believe with the issues they care about. That’s why our opponents changed the topic of the election.

The case of Arizona’s Prop 107 campaign in 2006 is instructive, simply because it is the ONLY campaign in which anti-marriage forces lost. People tend to dismiss it as a fluke, but it embodies a very valuable lesson. The proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution that year would have not only barred same-sex marriage, but all other domestic partnership registries as well. LGBT advocates ran a brilliant campaign pointing out how this proposed law would affect straight people — including large numbers of senior citizens who live together but haven’t married because they don’t want to give up their social security benefits. Because they weren’t married, they relied on local domestic partnership registrations for access to local services and to be able to make medical decisions for each other. It also affected a large number of unmarried straight firefighters and police officers, whose significant others would lose access to health benefits. Because it became an issue that straight people cared about — the majority in Arizona as elsewhere — it went down in defeat. A different amendment passed in 2008; that one focused exclusively on same-sex marriage, and LGBT advocates failed to find a hook that everyone could care about. And when we fail to find a hook that everyone cares about, we will lose every time.

And by the way, this isn’t true just about LGBT politics. It’s politics in general. When people voted in 2008 for president, most of them voted based on a desire for “hope” and “change” and “Yes We Can!” on the one hand, or — okay, I can’t remember what McCain wanted us to vote about. Maybe that’s why he lost as badly as he did.

Our failure to answer these three very important questions in the past have become a costly and painful lesson. Our failure in the future to heed those lessons will leave us with no one else to blame but ourselves.

More pissed off Methodists

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2011

When I wrote about the United Methodists who are up in arms in Minnesota over marriage equality, some readers thought I was mocking them. This is the farthest from the truth: I respect and admire them.

But truly, Methodists tend to be a steady bunch. Very nice people, but just not all that excitable.

But every once in a while an issue comes along that fires them up and gets them agitating for change. And when they do, change happens. Which is why I am delighted that the United Methodist marriage movement is spreading. (Although, yes, I’m amused as well.)

Inspired by the Minneapolis letter, Methodists in New England are signing on to their own letter of defiance, declaring that they too will “offer the grace of the church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage.” And they got a lot more support than expected. (Portland Press Herald)

“We used the exact same statement they used in Minnesota, and we invited like-minded colleagues to sign with us” during the conference, he said.

He hoped for 12 people to stand with them. Fifty signed the statement on the first day.

That number grew to 90 by the end of the conference, and it now stands at 123, about one in nine clergy members in the New England Conference.

Now it may not seem that one in nine is significant enough to represent drastic change. But this is one in nine willing to sign a letter of defiance, expressing intent to violate the rules of the church, declaring that this issue is one of such importance that unity and formality fall secondary. In other words, this is ten percent of the church that is pissed off, fired up, and ready to love their opposition into submission.

And never ever underestimate the power of a pissed off Methodist.

Leader of Maine’s Yes on 1 Campaign Admits to Lying

Jim Burroway

April 18th, 2011

Liar

A new documentary is due to be released this summer which goes behind the scenes of Maine’s 2009 campaign to deny marriage equality for same-sex couples. Documentarians Joe Fox and James Nubile obtained permission to film both camps on the provision that the documentary not air until after the campaign was over. Now that it’s due to air later this year, a trailer for Question One has been posted online, complete with a very candid admission from Yes on 1 campaign chairman Marc Mutty:

We use a lot of hyperbole and I think that’s always dangerous,” says Mutty during a Yes on 1 strategy session, at the time on leave from his job as public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine.

“You know, we say things like ‘Teachers will be forced to (teach same-sex marriage in schools)!’ ” he continues. “Well, that’s not a completely accurate statement and we all know it isn’t, you know?”

“No,” interjects a woman off-camera. “We don’t say that.”

“Let’s look back at our ads and see what we say,” Mutty persists. “And I think we use hyperbole to the point where, you know, it’s like ‘Geez!’”

Mutty admitted that what they were doing was the equivalent of slamming people over the head with “a two-by-four with nails sticking out of it,” adding, ” it’s the only thing we’ve got — it’s the only way. That’s the way campaigns work.”

Mutty now regrets allowing the filming, worrying that “what impact it will have on my professional life remains to be seen.”

Betsy Smith, the executive director of Equality Maine, summed it all up nicely by observing that opponents’ religious motivations (McNutty was an official with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine) didn’t translate into an ethical campaign:

Still, she said, “sometimes you want to believe that at least they believed in what they were saying. You want to believe that they feel so passionately about religion and tradition that the things they put out there, they believe, are true.”

And now?

“It’s striking to hear them say ‘No, we knew all along that wasn’t true,’” Smith said. “‘We were just hitting people over the head with a two-by-four with nails because that’s the only option we had.’”

Couple recognition, state by state

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2010

Upon the governor’s signature, Illinois will become the second state that is currently offering civil unions to same-sex couples. The status of the various recognition mechanisms is as follows:

Marriage
on the same terms as heterosexual marriage – 5.1% of US Population:

Massachusetts
Connecticut
Iowa
Vermont
New Hampshire
District of Columbia

Civil Unions
– a rights except the name – 7.1% of US Population:

New Jersey
Illinois

Domestic Partnerships will all the rights except the name – 16.3% of US Population

California
Oregon
Washington
Nevada

Limited recognition of same-sex couples – 6.2% of US Population

Hawaii – Reciprocal Benefits
Colorado – Reciprocal Benefits
Wisconsin – Domestic Partnerships
Maine – Domestic Partnerships
Maryland – Domestic Partnerships

In addition, the states of Maryland and New York (6.4% of US Population) will give full recognition to same-sex marriages conducted where legal. Rhode Island may possibly do so also (it’s a bit uncertain) and offers unregistered Domestic Partnerships with a scant handful of rights.

Also, there are dozens of cities offer some form of recognition and protection for same-sex couples.

Marriage update – around the states

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Timothy Kincaid

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

Jim Burroway

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.

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