The religious right has launched a campaign of misinformation about the
law granting civil rights to gay men and lesbians. In brochures and
newspaper columns, the anti-gay forces have trotted out a series of
allegations against the measure. That these claims are patently false is
of surprisingly little concern to a group that claims its opposition to
the law is based on moral considerations.
According to opponent's propaganda, Maine will open itself to all manner
of unexpected consequences if it takes the simple step of banning
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in housing,
employment, credit and public accommodation. The anti-gay groups claim
this measure will force companies to pay benefits to the domestic
partners of homosexual employees. That's simply untrue. The state has no
law requiring companies to pay benefits to domestic partners of any
The homophobes are claiming the law would compel religious organizations
to hire gay men and lesbians. Again, not true. The legislation
specifically exempts churches and affiliated organizations, and the
measure is clear on exactly what religious groups need not obey the law.
The religious right is asserting that public schools will be forced to
teach something called "the homosexual lifestyle." Wrong. School
curricula remain under the control of local school committees, which can
decide how, when and if any sort of lifestyle is taught.
Finally, opponents of civil rights contend this election is about
defending family values. But they make no case that anything in this law
threatens families in any way. The only conceivable "family value" that
could come under attack if this measure is approved by voters on Feb. 10
is the one that claims it's appropriate to use the family as a front for
These feeble arguments are almost certainly an attempt to confuse the
public, in hopes that confusion will lead to apathy. The religious
right, which claims to believe in democracy, is convinced that the fewer
folks who vote, the better off their "people's veto" of the gay rights
law will fare.
This could be one of those rare occasions when they're right. The key to
victory in this referendum might well be the degree of voter turnout. If
each of the approximately 70,000 people who'll read this newspaper
between now and election day made a commitment to go to the polls and
vote "No," the opposition would be hard pressed to match that effort. If
each CBW reader asked just one friend, relative or acquaintance to
accompany them, the result would be an overwhelming affirmation of
Maine's tradition of tolerance.
On Feb. 10, a "No" vote is the most positive statement you can make.