Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays
  November 1997 Newsletter

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One year ago...



"The community has really come together in all this. It's awful to have to go through this again, but the support has been tremendous."-Maine Won't Discriminate founder Pat Peard, on the effort to invalidate enough signatures to shoot down a People's Veto of Maine's new gay rights law, in Casco Bay Weekly
"Peter has asked if I wondered if his upbringing resulted in his being gay. I can't imagine it any more than my daughter's being left- handed or a third son's turning into a computer whiz who's a vegetarian and digs gurus from India." -Movie critic Gene Shalit, on being the father of a gay son, in a guest column in The Advocate
"We're a family now." -Jon Holden, who, with his partner Michael Galluccio, was granted joint custody of a 2-year-old child they had cared for since infancy. A New Jersey state judge said her ruling was "in the best interest of the child. "
"The market is very tight for good people and we want to do anything we can to attract and retain them." -Chevron spokeswoman Alison Jones, on the company's extension of benefzts to domestic partners. 23 % of American companies with more than 5,000 employees now offer such plans.


Mark Your Calendar for these upcoming PFLAG Meetings

December 9

Topic: PFLAG holiday party. Jim & Roger from Drop Me a Line will be by with dozens of great gift ideas.

January 13

Topic: A look back on the emotional and event-filled history of PFLAG in the video PFLAG's 15 Year Journey.

PFLAG meets in the basement of Woodford's Church in Portland at 7pm, with gathering time from 6:30-7:00 for socializing and one-on-one support.

People's Veto Update

"We welcome any appropriate scrutiny of the petitions and the signatures," said Christian Civic League president Michael Heath to the Portland Press Herald in mid- October. He was referring to the 58,750 petition signatures his group and the Christian Coalition had turned in to the Secretary of State's office, in hopes of forcing a statewide vote to overturn the new state gay rights law passed in May.

Although over a thousand signatures were invalidated by the Secretary's office, that left about 6,000 more that had to be nixed in order to nullify the statewide vote.

So the rallying cry was sounded by Maine Won't Discriminate and the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance: "Let's get busy!"

Between October 20-27, hundreds of volunteers from all over the state-including members of PFLAG-pored over each and every petition round-the-clock from a cavernous 2nd floor space in the middle of downtown Hallowell. First the petitioners' names were entered into 20 computers to be checked for duplicates and other oddities that the Secretary of State missed. Then volunteers scoured each petition by hand, looking for multiple signatures in the same handwriting, incomplete dates, and over 20 other no-no's.

The organization of the effort was impressive. Arriving volunteers were given immediate instructions and put to work. The process moved seamlessly from one phase of the project to the next. And, perhaps most importantly, the network of gay- rights supporters that had disbanded after Question 1 was defeated two years ago suddenly re-emerged, fully energized, focused and committed to the task at hand.

So how many signatures were found to be bogus? The definitive answer won't be out before this newsletter goes to press. [15,000] But based on early estimates, there seems to be a ray of hope. Entire pages of petitions were tossed out due to fraud or technicalities (the room often erupted in applause when another petition with dozens of signatures was found to be invalid). Duplicate names were plentiful.

Petition signers who thought they were being sneaky didn't make it past the fme-toothed comb with which the petitions were scrutinized. So, although it's still a longshot, Michael Heath has every reason to be a little less cocky about his self-described "miracle of God."

His troops are clearly not quite as Godly as he would like Mainers to believe.

If enough signatures are found to be invalid in Maine Won't Discriminate's opinion, the coalition can appeal. A Superior Court judge would then hold a nonjury trial and rule by December 1. If the appeal is overturned, the issue will go to a statewide vote sometime between December and April.

But the foundation of gay rights supporters appears to be solid and ready for the fight, should it come to that. And PFLAG will be on the front lines to ensure equal-not special-rights for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered children and friends.

Gays describe job discrimination, harassment, and urge Senate panel to pass ENDA

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which failed to clear the Senate last September by one vote, has been re-introduced in Congress as S.B. 869 and H.R. 1858. ENDA would prohibit employers from Jiscriminating in employment practices based on sexual orientation.

On October 23, the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee heard testimony from a number of witnesses who had experienced job discrimination. One man, Kendall Hamilton of Oklahoma City, described losing a chance to manage a new restaurant when another employee told the boss Hamilton was gay. The boss even called Hamilton into the office to say that his sexual orientation had cost him the promotion. Hamilton had no legal recourse in the matter.

While Maine Reps. Tom Allen and John Baldacci have expressed support for ENDA, it's not clear how Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins will vote. Here's how to reach them to express your support of ENDA
Sen. Olympia Snowe
250 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Ph: 202-224-5344
3 Canal Plaza
Portland, ME 04112
Ph: 874-0883
Fax: 874-7631

Rep. Tom Allen
1630 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ph: 202-225-6116
234 Oxford St.
Portland, ME 04101
Ph: 774-5019
Fax: 871-0720


Sen. Susan Collins
170 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Ph: 202-224-2523
140 Moulton Street
Portland, ME 04101
Ph: 780-3575
Fax: 828-0380

Rep. John Baldacci
1740 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ph: 202-225-6306
202 Harlow Street
Bangor, ME 04402
Ph: 942-6935
Fax: 942-5907

Ellen Update

Although many complain that the Ellen DeGeneres story is over- exposed, it continues to make news and expose millions of Americans to the normalcy and "everyday-ness" of homosexuality. So here's how she made ripples in October:

First she made the cover of TV Guide, in which she describes the future of the show and her relationship with her divorced parents.

Her mother, Betty DeGeneres, has been openly supportive, but her father, Elliott, is another matter. According to Ellen, "To this day, my dad comes to the show every Friday, but he still doesn't say, `You're so funny or good.' He'll say a line is funny or someone else is funny, but he never compliments me, so you can imagine him dealing with my being gay."

Then, on October 16, Vice President Al Gore, in a speech to the Hollywood Television and Radio Society, praised Ellen for forcing Americans "to look at sexual orientation in a more open light." Gore said the show was dealing with homophobia the same way 'All in the Family' did for racism and bigotry.

Last but not least, Ellen's mother has accepted a 1-year "tour of duty" as spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Project. According to Betty DeGeneres, her message will be "that parents accept the news that their child is gay or lesbian and love them and accept them and embrace them just as they always did, if not more so, because they need it more." DeGeneres, a retired speech therapist, will travel the country making appearances, and will participate in TV ads.

News and Notes from around the country...

As gays and lesbians were bravely coming out of the closet on National Coming Out Day in October, the religious right was continuing its attempt to stuff them back in. National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day was observed on October 10 at - of all places - Harvard University. Harvard was chosen because of the University Memorial Church's decision last year to sponsor same-sex commitment ceremonies. The event is sponsored by the right-wing Family Research Council. The group's director of "cultural studies" says its mission is to allow people "a way out of an immoral behavior that is emotionally and physically dangerous." In related lunacy, more than 225 churches in 45 states operated some genuinely disturbing "haunted houses" for Halloween this year. The Denver-based Abundant Life Christian Center sells a kit that shows groups how to create their own "Hell House," complete with ghoulish scenes of a bloody abortion, a satanic cult murderer, and the funeral of a homosexual AIDS victim. Visitors pay $6.50 each to see costumed church volunteers depict deeds for which they believe unrepentant sinners will burn in hell, including - you guessed it - homosexuality. While supporters praise the idea as a "scared-straight morality play," one critic says they "needlessly terrify teens with misinformation." Elton John, the openly gay pop singer, made it into the record books in October. Just 37 days after releasing the single Candle in the Wind '97, his tribute to Princess Diana, sales surpassed those of Bing Crosby's White Christmas. The Guinness Book of Records says that nearly 31.8 million copies of the CD had been shipped around the world. White Christmas has sold an estimated 30 million copies since its release 55 years ago.
Closer to home--and on a much more positive note--Portland celebrated its third annual Diversity Day on October 26 at the University of Southern Maine. This year's theme was "We have met diversity, and it is us." Barbara Davis of Peoples Heritage Bank, one of the event's co-sponsors, told the Portland Press Herald, "People with disabilities, people with various faiths differing from our own, families, single people, gays and lesbians, all of that very unique mix makes Portland such a culturally, educationally and economically diverse community." The event was started in 1995 after a reported rise in hate crimes against immigrants in the city. This could be the future of gay rights bills in America. In Washington State, a measure on the Nov. 4 ballot would ban job discrimination against gays and lesbians...but it would also explicitly forbid preferential treatment, quotas or partner benefits. The move is designed to squash opponent arguments that gays and lesbians are after "special rights." If it passes, it would become the first gay rights measure passed by citizen initiative rather than legislative action. Even with the strict wording, conservative opponents are still unimpressed. "They still want your kids," says one fundraising letter.  


Contents by permission from PFLAG-Portland Newsletter
Online editing and format: Paula Stockholm