Sunday, November 5, 1995

Vote puts Maine center-stage in gay rights battle

Both sides claim support from broad range of Mainers

Seeking a 'yes' vote

Seeking a 'no' vote

A history of gay rights legislation

Facts about Question 1

By Joshua L. Weinstein and Steven G. Vegh
Staff Writers
©Copyright 1995 Guy Gannett Communications Editor's note: This is the last in a series of stories about the referendum questions appearing on Tuesday's ballot.

America will be watching Tuesday when Maine voters determine if gay people should be excluded from protection under local and state laws.

No election this year will capture the nation's attention like Question 1, Maine's anti-gay rights referendum. It is the latest event in a long-running debate in America over whether homosexuals should get civil rights protections.

If approved, Question 1 would overturn Portland and Long Island's gay rights ordinances and prohibit any other community from passing its own. It also would delete gays from protection under the state's hate crimes law.

If Question 1 is rejected, no changes in laws would be required.

The campaign over Question 1 has been long, divisive and expensive. In lobbying Mainers for votes, supporters and opponents have spent more than $1 million - with opponents out-raising and out-spending supporters by a 10 to 1 ratio. Both sides have received assistance from out-of-state organizations and individuals.

But Tuesday won't bring the final word. Both sides have vowed to continue the fight, no matter what the outcome on election day.

Opponents of the referendum promise to sue if it passes. Supporters promise to try again if it fails. Either way, the Legislature will consider a bill during the 1996 session that would grant civil rights protection to gays and lesbians.

Question 1 - whose wording some deride as deliberately confusing - was put on the ballot after Concerned Maine Families, headed by Carolyn H.T. Cosby of Portland, gathered more than 60,000 signatures over 11 months in 1993 and 1994. That petition drive spawned Maine Won't Discriminate, a Portland-based organization that is working to defeat Question 1.

Maine is the only state with such a question on its ballot this year, and is the first state east of the Rocky Mountains to consider a statewide anti-gay rights initiative. That puts Maine in the center of a years-long, unfolding national drama:

In a 1992 referendum, Colorado passed an anti-gay rights law. Colorado's state supreme court overturned the law after an appeal by gay rights advocates. Gay rights opponents appealed that decision, and the law is now being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a decision next spring.

Only five weeks after Idaho defeated a similar referendum in 1994, its backers were proposing another.

An anti-gay initiative failed in Oregon in 1992. Opponents of gay rights initiated another, similar referendum in 1994. When that referendum also failed, several Oregon towns enacted their own, local anti-gay ordinances in rapid-fire succession.

In all states that have passed statewide anti-gay laws, the measures went to the ballot via citizen initiative, thus bypassing the more deliberative legislative process.

The referendums are part of a larger national political debate over gay rights and homosexuality.

On Oct. 19, President Clinton announced his support of a bill proposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that would protect gays and lesbians against job discrimination. And Clinton's first political battle as president had to do with his support for allowing gay people to serve in the military. He eventually enacted a ''don't ask-don't tell'' policy that essentially kept the status quo.

Earlier this fall, Sen. Bob Dole, the Republican presidential hopeful from Kansas, returned a $1,000 contribution from a gay Republican organization. Afterward, he said he should have kept the money.

The incidents illustrate how volatile the issue of gay rights has become. They also show how difficult it is for politicians to stake out a middle ground when both sides are polarized on issues of morality, fairness and civil rights.

Maine's anti-gay rights referendum is drawing national attention, especially because it represents a new and unique approach by groups devoted to stopping gay rights laws.

Rather than specifically denying gay people civil rights protections, as measures in other states have tried to do, Question 1 simply lists the categories by which people can receive civil rights protection. These categories include age, race and religion. Because sexual orientation isn't specifically mentioned, it is excluded. Further, Question 1 excludes any other group from ever getting such protection.

Opponents claim Question 1 would legalize discrimination against gay people and allow them to be fired or denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. National gay rights organizations are so concerned about the ques tion's impacts that they have provided significant support to Maine Won't Discriminate.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Policy Institute, for example, sent a staff member from its Washington headquarters to help Maine Won't Discriminate.

The fact that sexual orientation is not specifically mentioned in Question 1 makes it different from the Colorado anti-gay rights law, which does mention sexual orientation.

The difference in language means that even if the Supreme Court strikes down the Colorado law, Maine's anti-gay measure would probably be unaffected, said Robert Knight, a spokesman for the Family Research Council, a national Christian conservative group.

''Maine may loom very large if Amendment 2 (the Colorado law) goes down,'' Knight said.

Thomas Andrews, the former congressman from Maine who is now president of People for the American Way, a Washington-based citizens group, doesn't buy it.

''Their legal argument wouldn't stand up in court,'' he said. ''They're going to have the same problems that Colorado has had, and for good reason. But the reason to vote this down has nothing to do with what a court of law would say, and everything to do with what is right and wrong, and this is clearly wrong.''

Wording is intentional

Bruce Fein, a conservative Virginia lawyer who wrote the proposal for Concerned Maine Families, said he intentionally worded it differently than referendums in Colorado and Idaho.

Speaking in Augusta on May 2 at a legislative hearing on the referendum, Fein said those earlier initiatives were flawed because they targeted gays and imposed a specific legal hurdle on gays' rights.

In contrast, Maine's Question 1 does not mention sexual orientation. It cannot, therefore, be accused of creating ''an un-evenhanded playing field'' that is anti-gay, Fein said.

But he acknowledged the measure would stop gays from being included in local human rights laws.

Fein said sexual orientation should not be part of such laws, contending that gay people are not a bona fide minority that needs special protection.

Andrews said otherwise.

''This kind of intolerance and bigotry is raising its ugly head all over the country, and the right wing is looking for states and communities where they can push their weight around and they think that in Maine they've got a good mark.''

He said that Maine's reputation for independence and fairness makes the state particularly attractive.

''It's not a state where people would just expect a knee-jerk reaction to something like this, so if you can win in a state like that, well, you could probably win many places,'' he said. ''If they could win in Maine, there could be some momentum built for the Northeast.''

Grass-roots initiative

Although Concerned Maine Families, which has criticized its opponents for accepting assistance from out-of-state groups, enlisted Fein's help and has received money from national organizations, it was Cosby's Maine-based organization that launched Question 1. Supporters of anti-gay rights initiatives across the country say it is important to note that the proposals are coming from the grass-roots level - and are not the result of orchestrated national movements.

Those initiatives are inspired, however, by the agenda of national conservative groups, said Matthew Moen, a University of Maine political scientist who studies the Christian Right's impact on politics.

Leaders of national gay rights groups, which are closely watching Maine, agree.

''This is very much part of an agenda of the radical right,'' said David Clarinbach, a former Wisconsin state legislator who is now the executive director of the Washington-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. ''The gay and lesbian community is becoming the Willie Horton of the 1996 campaign season.''

Shift in strategy works

In the 1980s, said Moen, Christian conservatives sought unsuccessfully to win support by Congress and the president for their social agenda, which includes opposition to homosexuality.

Acknowledging their failure, those groups in 1989 consciously shifted their strategy and began fostering support for their agenda at the local level. The strategy now is bearing fruit, as seen in the election of Christian conservatives to school boards and the new power of Christian conservatives in state Republican organizations, Moen said.

It also is reflected in the Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Maine anti-gay rights referendums, which were home-grown citizen petition drives. Although those initiatives are inspired by national Christian conservative groups, the control has remained at the grass-roots level, Moen said.

John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio, agreed.

''You can have two images of this,'' said Green, who studies Christian conservative groups. ''One, that these local people are operating in isolation. That's in error, because they talk to other (like-minded) people and organizations in other states.

''It's equally wrong to assume there's a giant war room in Colorado Springs where this is being strategized,'' Green said. Colorado Springs, Colo., is the headquarters for several Christian conservative groups, such as Focus on the Family.

Cause fits ideology

The efforts to pass statewide referendums that would preclude gay rights laws are just one piece of the agenda held by various Christian conservative groups, Green and Moen said. They said those groups target homosexuality partly because the issue prompts a strong response from individuals who fund those groups.

But condemnation of homosexuality also fits into the Christian conservative ideology. Two such groups - the Family Research Center and Focus on the Family - are involved in Maine's referendum.

The Washington-based Family Research Center has an $8 million annual budget and a staff of about 60. Focus on the Family has 1,300 employees, an annual budget near $100 million and a daily radio program with an estimated 5 million listeners each week.

Knight, of the Family Research Council, has been in Maine speaking on behalf of, and giving advice to, the Coalition to End Special Rights, which backs Question 1. The Coalition, created by the Christian Civic League of Maine, also has benefited from free, pro-referendum radio commercials produced by Focus on the Family.

''Our involvement in Question 1 is not because we see this as some sort of huge chess game with national implications,'' said Peter Brandt, Focus spokesman. ''We're involved simply because the Christian Civic League asked us for help.''

Brandt said that backing Maine's referendum is part of his group's mission - to strengthen the family.

Knight said that homosexuality is simply part of the Family Research Council's social concerns agenda, which includes reforming welfare, shrinking government and boosting traditional families. The council argues that same-sex couples should not have children and should not head families.

''It's not bigotry for people to oppose homosexuality. It stems from their appreciation of what is normal and healthy and best for their children,'' Knight said.

Knight said he believes conservatives and groups such as the Family Research Council must not only stop gay rights campaigns from succeeding, but also work to repeal gay rights laws in states that have them.

Issue won't die

While opponents and backers of Question 1 disagree on just about everything, both acknowledge that, whatever the outcome, the issue will remain alive.

Andrew Ketterer, Maine's attorney general, has called the proposal flawed and said last week he expects that if the measure passes it will be challenged in court.

Question 1's opponents acknowledge they are preparing such legal challenges.

The conservative, Phoenix-based Alliance Defense Fund also said it would help pay to defend Question 1 in court if voters approve it Tuesday. The Defense Fund, formed by Christian conservative leaders two years ago, already has assisted opponents of gay rights in Colorado and Cincinnati, said Scott Phillips, the group's counsel.

Litigation around Maine's Question 1, Phillips said, ''could be a case that keeps on for three or four years.''

Bill to be considered

State Sen. Dale McCormick, D-Monmouth, has introduced gay-rights legislation to be considered during the next session, and Gov. Angus King - an ardent opponent of Question 1 - has promised to sign a gay rights bill into law if the House and Senate pass it.

But if Question 1 passes, it will chill the political atmosphere and may make it almost impossible to approve a statewide gay rights law.

McCormick said that while she won't guess how the ballot question will affect her bill, ''I certainly am going to look at the vote very closely, and I know that all legislators will.''

R. Leo Kieffer, Senate majority leader, said he doubts a gay rights bill would pass if voters approve Question 1.

Still, Maine legislators have shown they are willing to pass a law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians. Legislators approved a statewide law making such discrimination illegal in the spring of 1993, but then-Gov.John McKernan refused to sign the bill, and it died on his desk.

But King, his successor, vigorously supports gay rights. In fact, King and his wife, Mary Herman, donated $1,000 to Maine Won't Discriminate.

And King, the nation's only independent governor, last month became the first governor to film a television commercial opposing an anti-gay rights measure.

King makes TV spot

In a 30-second TV spot, which the governor helped write and which ran on stations across the state for two weeks, King said passage of Question 1 would make it difficult for him to attract new jobs and businesses to Maine.

Kieffer, the Senate majority leader, denounced the commercial as dishonest, as did the Christian Civic League of Maine, Concerned Maine Families and the Coalition to End Special Rights.

In an Oct. 27 press release, Kieffer wrote, ''Gov. King gave news reporters anecdotal evidence that Colorado's economy suffered after voters passed Amendment 2, an initiative similar to Question 1 in Maine. . . . I've looked at Colorado's economy. The fact is, Colorado has the strongest economy in the nation. . . . If (King's) passion is blindsiding him to the economic realities in Colorado, how can decision makers in Augusta, or the private business community, rely on the governor's overall economic projections for Maine?''

Despite his attack on the governor, Kieffer, of Caribou, refused to say whether he favors Question 1.

King's office said the governor had received about 1,400 complaints from people who objected to his TV spots urging a ''no'' vote. The complaints came amid a statewide campaign from the Christian Civic League, which urged Mainers to lodge their protests with King.

About 700 people wrote King supporting the commercials.

King stands by the commercials.

''I did talk personally with Gov. Romer of Colorado, and I think he's a pretty good judge of what's going on in his state,'' King said Friday. ''He said it's been bad for Colorado.''

King said Maine's economy would suffer if the measure passes. ''I do this economic development stuff every day,'' he said, ''and I'm talking to companies and people all over the country, and I'm just as sure as I'm sitting here that if this thing passes, it's something I'm going to have to explain away and it's going to hurt us.''

Delegation is opposed

While King's opposition to Question 1 has generated the most heat, all four members of Maine's congressional delegation also oppose the question.

Sen. Olympia Snowe is pictured in a Maine Won't Discriminate television commercial, and a fellow Republican, Sen. William Cohen, also opposes Question 1. Rep. John Baldacci, a Democrat, and Rep. James Longley, a Republican, oppose Question 1. Spokesmen for all four say they have received few complaints.

Some of the callers to Snowe actually wanted to know what Question 1 means, said W. Davis Lackey, Snowe's spokesman.

That's evidence that Question 1 is difficult to understand, said Daniel Zingale, political director of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington, D.C.-based gay rights organization. The organization has donated money and offered strategic support to Maine Won't Discriminate.

''The Maine battle is particularly important because the national anti-gay groups are testing a new form of initiative,'' Zingale said. ''This is the first time they've crafted an initiative that deliberately confuses the voters in terms of its intention.

''In Maine, it's a test of a new form that is misleading and confusing, and as a result, I think, a greater percentage of voters are confused,'' he said.

Law written by citizens

Although Cosby and her colleagues deny that Question 1 is confusing, initiatives and referendums do bypass the traditional spate of legislative hearings and scrutiny.

That's the way the initiative process tends to work, said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington.

Question 1 is an initiative - a proposed law written by citizens rather than their elected representatives. Such proposals, Gans said, ''often tend to come out of the emotions of the time and tend to create binds that constrict government in unconstructive ways.''

Attorney General Ketterer agreed.

''I like the idea of initiative, because it's an opportunity for people who are not members of the House and Senate to say, 'If you don't do this, we will.' ''

But, he said, ''When you go through the more traditional lawmaking processes there are committees, there are clerks, there are analysts, there are lawyers, there are legislative committees that sculpt and redefine the bill. At public hearings, people bring out issues, so it goes through a process that you don't have here.''

But initiatives and referendums are another story. ''You simply have one question, however artfully or inartfully worded, and if you have enough signatures, it goes on the ballot,'' said Ketterer.

But being on the ballot may not be enough. No one on either side of the issue expects a final resolution Tuesday.

''It's not the end of the issue,'' said Kieffer, Senate majority leader. ''It's not going to, I don't suppose, ever end.''

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Both sides claim supporters from broad range of Mainers

Both sides on the anti-gay rights referendum campaign say Mainers have flocked to their cause. But while one side flourishes its list of official allies, the other says it doesn't give much weight to public endorsements.

Maine Won't Discriminate, which opposes Question 1, has compiled more than 150 endorsements from organizations and prominent individuals.

''These are representative groups - the Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO, the Maine Education Association, any one of these groups,'' said Mark Sullivan, a Maine Won't Discriminate spokesman. ''Clearly, they reflect the will of their members, and with their members we're talking tens of thousands of Mainers.''

But Paul Madore, whose Coalition to End Special Rights supports the referendum, says there is no proof that positions taken by leadership reflect the rank-and-file view.

''Those who are supporting the 'no' vote are making that position clear, but I think that's all there is. I don't think it's going to translate to their support base,'' Madore said.

Like the coalition, Concerned Maine Families, which initiated the referendum, doesn't use long lists of endorsements as a campaign tool.

Concerned Maine Families' leader, Carolyn H.T. Cosby, said her campaign was founded upon grass-roots support. The leaders of other organizations backing Concerned Maine Families have had little incentive to make their endorsements public, Cosby said, because they have been ignored by the media when they do step forward.

Beyond endorsements, both sides have been busy gathering funds to fuel their campaigns. As of Oct. 26, the last filing deadline for campaign contribution reports, Maine Won't Discriminate had received $983,628 and a $20,000 loan.

Concerned Maine Families had received $69,389. The Lewiston-based Coalition to End Special Rights had received $30,209.

Cosby said she believes Maine Won't Discriminate's endorsements and donations reflect ''back-room'' arrangements among affluent gays, businesses and politicians. She suspects that those who endorse and contribute money to Maine Won't Discriminate will in return get influence or cash contributions from affluent gays.

''The list of endorsements you're looking at today is the hands of gay power in this state that is finally showing,'' Cosby said.

Organizations and prominent figures endorsing the ''no'' vote include the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, the Maine Chamber & Business Alliance, and the state's four-member congressional delegation.

The groups and individuals give various reasons for opposing Question 1. Some say the measure would usurp the rights of municipalities to create their own ordinances. Some say it would promote discrimination. Some predict it would kill laws that protect or benefit groups such as smokers, public housing tenants and veterans.

Some have perspectives that reflect their special field of expertise:

Susan Savell, executive director of the Maine Association of Child Abuse and Neglect Councils, said Question 1 fosters contempt of homosexuals. That could be emotionally harmful to gay children and their families, as well as to gay parents and their families, she said.

Savell said her group's stance also aims to counter the stereotypical beliefs of some anti-gay rights advocates that supporting gay rights will lead to increased child abuse by gays.

''As professionals in the field of child abuse prevention, we know that over 95 percent of child abusers are heterosexual males,'' Savell said.

Christopher Hall, vice-president of the Maine Chamber & Business Alliance, said his group has supported gay rights legislation for three years.

The stance reflects Maine businesses' rejection of discrimination against gays and concern that passage of Question 1 would repel some tourists and businesses.

''Our economy is in a fragile period, and it just doesn't make any sense here to take steps to jeopardize it,'' Hall said.

Dr. George McNeil, president of the medical staff of Maine Medical Center, said the staff's executive committee unanimously opposes the referendum.

''I think it's unhealthy for anyone to live in a cultural setting where there is any sort of institutionalized contempt or discrimination just because of differences like this,'' said McNeil, a psychiatrist. ''This, to me, is every bit as insidious as discrimination based on religion or ethnicity.''

The pro-Question 1 campaigns say they, too, have support from a wide spectrum of Maine people, organizations and businesses.

The Maine group most clearly supportive of the Coalition to End Special Rights is the Christian Civic League of Maine. In fact, the coalition is the brainchild of the league.

Michael Heath, the league's executive director, said his organization backs the referendum because it addresses a public policy question that touches on faith and morality. More specifically, passage of the referendum would be a defeat for gay rights and homosexuality, both of which the league opposes.

Madore, chairman of the Coalition to End Special Rights, emphasized that the coalition has great grass-roots strength.

The coalition has no endorsement list remotely comparable to that of Maine Won't Discriminate. Madore, however, said backers of a ''yes'' vote are more private about that stance than are people who oppose the referendum.

''Those who support the 'no' vote seem to have a lot more tenacity and are far less reluctant to go public,'' he said. ''We have a lot of strong supporters who are reluctant to get in the limelight.''

In 1993, Madore led the successful campaign in Lewiston that opposed a gay rights ordinance for that city. Gay rights advocates in that election had garnered a long list of endorsements from leaders of civic groups and other organizations, he said.

But Madore said the defeat of the gay rights ordinance, by a 2-1 ratio, makes him believe voters ''pooh-poohed'' the significance of the endorsements. He expects Maine Won't Discriminate's list of endorsements will not accurately portray the views of ordinary voters.

''If a (union) local can say, 'We represent a 'no' vote on Question 1,' it does not automatically translate to the 4,000 who are its membership,'' Madore said. - Steven G. Vegh

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Seeking a 'yes' vote

Paul Madore, chairman, Coalition to End Special Rights

Madore, 46, lives with his wife and nine children in a modest two-story home in Lewiston. In the living room, where the campaign for Question 1 is waged over the phone by eager volunteers, the walls are adorned with religious scenes and pictures of the Madore family.

The children, who range in age from 4 to 17, frequently wander through the room, fetching coffee or placards for campaign workers. Concerns about violence in the Lewiston schools and a curriculum that might mention homosexuality have led the Madores to home-school their brood.

''The schools just lack an ethical approach,'' Madore said.

Early on, the Coalition to End Special Rights split from Concerned Maine Families, claiming its rhetoric was too tame. A devout Catholic, Madore tends to talk more than Carolyn H.T. Cosby, the chairwoman of Concerned Maine Families, about ''the homosexual lifestyle'' and ''the sexually deviant behavior of homosexuals.''

''This is a gut issue,'' Madore said. ''People are not going to intellectualize about civil rights when they're in that booth. There are broader moral issues at stake here.''

Madore speaks quickly. He is passionate about his beliefs. A year ago, he led a grass-roots campaign to overturn Lewiston's gay-rights ordinance and scored a 2-to-1 victory at referendum.

''Under the ordinance, if I had an apartment and chose not to rent to homosexuals to protect my family and children from that lifestyle, I could have been sued,'' Madore said. ''That's not right.''

Carolyn Cosby, chairwoman of Concerned Maine Families.

Cosby, 44, describes herself as ''just a homemaker.'' But her tireless campaign to pass Question 1 has thrust her into the national debate over gay rights - and Cosby knows it.

''I'm sick and tired of people who cave in to special-interest groups,'' Cosby said last week, seated at her kitchen table with a cup of hot tea. ''At the end of this, I'll have done something good for my state and my country.''

Cosby, married for 27 years and the mother of two grown children, said she has only napped in recent weeks, sleeping just two or three hours a night. The rest of her time is spent on the phone or on the road or both.

''To be honest, there have been times when I thought about getting out of this,'' Cosby said. ''But when people want you out as badly as people want me out, you know your message is right.''

She has served six years on Portland's Republican City Committee and led the unsuccessful 1992 effort to repeal Portland's gay-rights ordinance. Cosby said she is accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics and unbothered by occasional personal attacks.

Then she picks up a national gay publication and spies a reference to the ''dowdy housewife'' from Portland.

''I'm offended by that,'' she said. ''I'm the opposition's worst nightmare, because I come from a very normal, middle-American background. My Irish-immigrant grandmother used to grab us by the arm and make us recite the preamble to the Constitution. She wanted us to love and appreciate this country, and I do.''

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Seeking a 'no' vote

Patricia Peard, chairwoman of Maine Won't Discriminate

Peard, 49, calls herself a liberal. As a young woman, Peard was active in the anti-nuclear and abortion-rights movements. After college, she taught European history for several years at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Today, Peard is the president of the Maine Civil Liberties Union.

Peard is also a lesbian, and deeply disturbed that Maine voters will be asked to approve a referendum that would prohibit anti-discrimination protections for homosexuals in Maine.

''I have a deep and abiding concern for the basic civil liberties of all people,'' Peard, a lawyer with a large Portland law firm, said last week. ''I'm confident that Maine voters will recognize the arguments of the other side for what they are.''

What they are, Peard contends, are discriminatory and intended to frighten.

''The talk about homosexual behavior - about pedophilia and sex crimes - is nonsense,'' Peard said, closing her eyes wearily. ''Pure and simple, theirs is an appeal to fear and prejudice.''

Peard said she has worked 18-hour days for weeks. Surrounded by volunteers at Maine Won't Discriminate's Portland field office last week, Peard said she has almost no life outside the campaign.

''This is what I do,'' she sighed.

Peard said the organization put together to oppose Question 1 is strong and likely will remain intact after the vote, regardless of the outcome. She said it is not a gay-rights group.

''But that's what they call it,'' Peard said. ''Would the Catholic Church, Maine Medical Center and Jim Longley be members of a militant gay-rights lobby? I don't think so.''

Vicki Kelley, midcoast chapter, Maine Won't Discriminate

Kelley, 41, said she is not a ''political person'' but felt compelled to attend one of Maine Won't Discriminate's initial meetings. She has been organizing the group's meetings ever since.

''I really can't explain it,'' the Pittston resident said. ''I read the language of Question 1 and was alarmed. I couldn't understand why we'd ever need such a thing.''

Kelley, a substitute teacher for School Administrative District 11 in Gardiner, said on the days she is not in school she is calling friends and neighbors to talk about Tuesday's referendum. And when she is not doing that, Kelley said, she is ''twisting people's arms'' for donations.

''We've had auctions, yard sales, parties at people's houses,she said. ''I'm doing whatever I can. It takes a lot of my time, but I don't want our laws in this state to be based on hate.''

Kelley said her family is struggling to get ahead. She said her work is irregular, and her husband holds part-time jobs at St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Kennebec Valley Medical Center in Augusta and L.L. Bean in Freeport. The couple has three children.

''There are a lot of families in Maine like ours,'' Kelley said. ''I don't understand why a referendum that is driven by hate and distrust for others is a priority now.

''I've never been a political person,'' she said. ''But if it's an issue I think might affect my children, I'll get involved. I guess this is one of those issues.''

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Gay rights laws have long history

A select chronology of gay rights measures across the nation.

March 29, 1974: Minneapolis City Council approves an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

May 23, 1974: New York City Council defeats a measure that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bill was the first to come to a council vote after 3 1/2 years in committee.

May 11, 1992: Portland City Council passes an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Nov. 3, 1992: Voters in Portland uphold the ordinance.

Voters in Oregon reject a Constitutional amendment labeling homosexuality ''abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse.''

Voters in Colorado approve an initiative prohibiting state and local governments from enacting laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination.

Jan. 7, 1993: Lewiston City Council passes ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Nov. 2, 1993: Voters in Lewiston overturn the ordinance.

Oct. 11, 1994: The Colorado Supreme Court strikes down as unconstitutional a voter-approved measure prohibiting municipalities from passing laws that protect homosexuals from discrimination.

Nov. 8, 1994: Voters in daho and Oregon reject anti-gay initiatives.

Throughout 1993 and 1994: Voters in more than two dozen Oregon towns approve anti-gay initiatives.

Jan. 12, 1995: A petition by Concerned Maine Families is validated by the Secretary of State's office, placing Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot.

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The measure was placed on the ballot in response to a petition drive organized by Concerned Maine Families, a registered political action committee in Maine. The group gathered more than 60,000 signatures.

If approved, Question 1 would invalidate gay rights ordinances in Portland and Long Island. It would also delete gays from protection under the state's hate crimes law.

The defeat of Question 1 would not establish any new laws.

Although Question 1 says it would limit future state or local laws that seek to add new groups to human rights acts, in fact it cannot block the Legislature from passing any law, such as a gay rights law. Only the state constitution can bar the Legislature from taking any particular action.

There is no state law to forbid discrimination in housing, public accommodation, employment or credit on the basis of sexual orientation.

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