Saturday January 31, 1998


Associated Press, 01/30/98 15:23

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The Maine Won't Discriminate campaign took to television Friday with ads featuring Gov. Angus King pledging a Feb. 10 vote against the proposed repeal of Maine's gay rights statute.

King, who signed the gay rights bill last spring at a high-profile ceremony after it was enacted by the Legislature, is expected to be the leading proponent in the closing days of the gay-rights drive.

"Gov. King definitely has been our spokesman throughout," said Joe Cooper of the Vote No campaign.

Meanwhile, repeal advocates issued a statement decrying "a one-sided presentation by much of the media."

Michael Heath, the executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said the offices of his organization and an allied group, the Christian Coalition of Maine, had received a number of calls expressing disappointment over the way the referendum has been covered.

"I know that many of the people who control and operate Maine's media disagree with our perspective," Heath said. "They need to put their bias aside and tolerate different perspectives."

King's initial ad declaring his opposition to the repeal proposal also sounded a theme of tolerance.

"Maine is a big small town," the governor declares in the commercial. "We know each other, we care about each other and we're neighbors in the best sense. And some of those neighbors are gay. But they're part of our community as well and deserve the same basic rights as you and me."

King's prominent ad appearance reprises the role he took in last year's follow-up referendum on forestry practices in which, for a second time, the industry-backed compact he endorsed failed to win approval.

The new gay-rights ad has King asserting his own preference without directly calling on others to take the same position.

"It's not my place to tell you how to vote but it just strikes me as wrong that somebody should lose their job because they're gay," King says. "That's why on Feb. 10 I'm going to vote no."

Molly McMahon of the Christian Civic League said the repeal proponents, who have lagged far behind Maine Won't Discriminate in raising money, would probably not put on television ads.

"Right now I don't think it's our plan," she said. "It's more grass roots."

On Thursday in a statement issued in advance of the new King ads, Heath attacked the governor's involvement in the campaign.

"Many social conservatives have appreciated his fiscal policies," Heath said. "They are, however, outraged at his insensitivity to their concerns on issues that are of fundamental importance to them. And so they should be.

"He believes and promotes the lies of the supporters of homosexuality, even when presented with facts that refute his beliefs."

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