Maine's fight to save equality

Ann Coleman explains why the fight against an anti-marriage equality referendum in Maine is linked to a larger struggle for LGBT rights.

LGBT rights activists are facing down a new campaign against marriage equality in MaineLGBT rights activists are facing down a new campaign against marriage equality in Maine

A MIDDLE-aged white man in a frumpy suit and a toupee enunciating his syllables and explaining the consequences of "ho-mo-sex-u-al marriage" on society would be a laughable television commercial parody for Saturday Night Live, given that 85 percent of the U.S. population is opposed to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Unfortunately, this TV ad is the latest attack from the anti-marriage equality campaign supporting Question 1 in Maine--a referendum that would overturn the law passed earlier this year and that legalizes same-sex marriage.

The so-called "broad-based coalition" waging this attack is being orchestrated by the firm Schubert Flint Public Affairs, and funded by groups like Focus on the Family and all the corporate and religious players involved with the Proposition 8 campaign in California last year.

Recent polls taken after the launching of last week's media blitz show the decision split, with 49 percent of voters for and 46 percent against Question 1, and 6 percent of voters undecided.

The current law, which was signed by Gov. John Baldacci on May 6, allows same-sex couples to marry, and allows private individuals and religious institutions to refuse to perform these marriages.

The entire campaign in support of Question 1 is based on lies and deception. It aims to whip up fears that individuals, small businesses and religious organizations will face a wave of lawsuits; that church organizations could have their tax-exempt status stripped for not performing same-sex marriages; and that "homosexual marriage" would be taught in public schools.

When Baldacci signed the law, he acknowledged that, while he has opposed gay marriage in the past, "I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage."

Some LGBT rights organizations and supporters are viewing the battle to save civil rights in Maine as clear and decisive justification that our limited resources are best spent in these battleground states, rather than diverting them to the National Equality March on D.C. in October.

But the federal barriers to full LGBT equality like the Defense of Marriage Act are precisely the reason why activists in New England are supporting the No on 1 campaign and marching on D.C. in October.

We can't afford to allow a right-wing minority that uses lies and deception to define a debate about civil rights. Anytime a politician or organization provides political cover for the debate to stray away from the discrimination inherent in the Defense of Marriage Act and "don't ask don't tell," we all lose something.

If you support equality, support the No On 1 campaign in Maine--and join us in D.C. It's time to change the public debate and keep the pressure at the local and federal level until everyone has full equality under the law.