Thursday, June 19, 2008

Maine group drops anti-gay rights push -

Maine group drops anti-gay rights push -

By Glenn Adams
Associated Press Writer / June 19, 2008
AUGUSTA, Maine—An initiative campaign to repeal Maine's gay rights law and put in place roadblocks to gay marriages and adoptions is being abandoned, leaders of the campaign said Thursday.

"We're pulling the plug," said Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Heath said the evangelical group failed to attract voter, volunteer and financial support it needed to continue its campaign.

The group collected only a third of the 15,000 voters' signatures it had set as a goal for primary election day June 10, said Heath. He added said that potential volunteers "don't want to be aligned with bigotry and homophobia and hatred," tags their opponents had applied to the initiative backers.

EqualityMaine, which had placed volunteers at the polls June 10 to discourage voters to sign the initiative ballots, welcomed Thursday's decision.

"This was a really broad attack on gays and lesbians and their families," said Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine. "Mainers are generally fair-minded and I think they sent a strong message on primary day."

The civic league would have needed at least 55,087 valid voter signatures by next January to send their proposal to the Legislature next year. With the Legislature's likely rejection of the proposal, the question would have gone to Maine's voters no sooner than November 2009.

The proposed law had several components, including repealing Maine's law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodation, credit and education. It would have barred the use of state funds by the attorney general's office for its civil rights teams and civil rights programs in public schools.

It would have reaffirmed Maine's existing law that restricts marriages to one man and one woman, and ensured that only one unmarried person or one married couple jointly could adopt a person.

It would have prohibited clerks from issuing marriage licenses to persons of the same sex, and prohibited municipalities from licensing civil unions.

Two separate and unrelated efforts to prevent newly enacted state laws from taking effect are still in progress, with a July 17 deadline to collect signatures approaching. The targeted laws include one raising taxes on beer, wine, soda and insurance premiums to finance the state's Dirigo Health insurance program, and one to undo driver's license security measures.

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