Thursday -- October 26, 1995



The anti-gay campaign is morally wrong

The upcoming referendum in Maine is not about gay rights; it is about human rights. It would exclude an entire class of people from the protection of state and local laws.

The anti-gay rights referendum to be voted on next month is more insidious than most; it discriminates by exclusion.

There is agreement on both sides of the debate that homosexuality, although not mentioned in the referendum question, is the central issue. The proposal is to limit human rights protection to certain categories of people. It limits that protection to age, sex, race and seven other categories now listed in the Maine Human Rights Act.

Opposition to the referendum question is not about special protection for gay men or lesbians. It is about the exclusion of protection.

By exclusion, supporters of the measure would allow the denial of the same rights and privileges afforded other members of society.

We fear that of which we are ignorant. It is part of civilization's history. It is part of our country's history.

It was not until 1870 and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that we, as a nation, began to recognize that people ought not to be discriminated against because of their race or the color of their skin. It was not until 1920 and the 19th Amendment that similar recognition began to be established on the basis of gender. We have a long way to go in both cases. Discrimination in terms of race, color and gender remains widespread.

History is marked by discrimination on the basis of race or color, gender, religion and ethnic heritage. And history is not simply centuries or decades ago; it is today, as well.

Ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds prejudice and discrimination.

And ignorance is at the root of the anti-gay referendum in Maine.

And ignorance is an invasive social ill.

Portland is the only community in Maine that has a gay rights ordinance; rights not bestowed as a special privilege, but as recognition that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is as wrong as discrimination because of race, religion or gender. Legal analysts agree that passage of Question 1 would repeal Portland's ordinance and prohibit similar ordinances in other communities.

There's an economic impact of the anti-gay rights measure as well as a moral one.

Gov. Angus King, in registering his opposition to passage of the referendum, warns of the loss of revenue that might be felt if Maine voters endorse the measure. Maine is a tourist state, counsels the governor. And anything that might be justifiably interpreted as encouraging discrimination can have a serious effect on the state's economy and the revenues the state uses to provide its residents with basic services.

In plain English, gay-bashing will cost the state and its people money.

But the most important point is that discrimination is reprehensible; it is morally wrong. Some people may harbor prejudices all their lives and, sadly, educate their children according to those warped beliefs. But no one of us singly or as a society has the right to take action that might injure others or give comfort to people who would do so.

A vote against Question 1, the so-called anti-gay referendum, is a vote in favor of human rights.