Gay-rights group blasts opposition phone poll
By Susan Kinzie, Of the NEWS Staff
A telephone survey has angered some supporters of the gay-rights law that has been frozen pending a special election Feb. 10: They say volunteers for the Christian Coalition of Maine are telling voters that the ballot will include a question on partial-birth abortion.
The executive director of the Christian Coalition adamantly denied that Monday, and said that it's just a brief poll to find out voters' views on the two issues.
Sue Comyns, a woman from Portland who has been actively involved with Maine Won't Discriminate's campaign in support of the law, said her friend had received a call from the Christian Coalition asking whether she planned to vote Feb. 10, "how did she feel about special rights for homosexuals, and how did she feel about the partial-birth abortion issue. She said to me, 'Boy, I didn't know there were two issues on the ballot."'
There is only one question in the special election: whether to repeal the law passed last spring which would protect gays from discrimination in housing, employment, accommodations and credit.
Comyns said, "They're obviously trying to link one very controversial thing with what's being decided on the ballot."
Joe Cooper, a spokesman for Maine Won't Discriminate, said, "It must mean that even their own members believe in civil rights and they're scared their own members aren't going to vote with them. They have to get them to the poll, and they know their membership is motivated by (opposition to) partial-birth abortion."
Paul Volle, the head of the Christian Civic League, said, "That is a total fabrication by Maine Won't Discriminate."
They are not targeting their membership, he said, but doing a random survey as they periodically do around the time of elections. The last poll they did was in 1996, he said, with four "family values" questions. He said their volunteers are given a script, which he read over the phone: "Are you likely to vote in the special election on Feb. 10? Two: Do you favor banning special rights for homosexuality? Three: Do you favor banning partial-birth abortions?"
Rebecca Wyke, the assistant secretary of state, said they had heard rumors of a push poll, "but I don't know that we've gotten any calls directly."
The two Christian groups which got the question on the ballot have raised only a fraction of the money that Maine Won't Discriminate has brought in, and are relying on phone calls and mailings. Maine Won't Discriminate recently finished filming television ads with Gov. Angus King speaking in support of the law.
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