GLBT Communities Expected to Face 12 Hostile Ballot Measures in Next 16 Months
Four states, eight municipalities anticipate vote on anti-gay initiatives; Massachusettes eyes 2004 vote
At least 12 cities, counties and states are expected to face ballot campaigns during the next 16 months that seek to overturn civil rights laws, prevent the positive or neutral mention of homosexuality in public schools, ban same-sex marriage or outlaw domestic partner benefits, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force warned today.
In addition, a group of right-wing activists announced this week it would seek to place an anti-same sex marriage initiative on the 2004 statewide ballot in Massachusetts. That measure could also ban state recognition of domestic partner benefits and threaten other rights such as inheritance and the ability to make emergency medical decisions for one's partner and adoption rights.
On Nov. 6 of this year, three Michigan cities - Kalamazoo, Traverse City and Huntington Woods - face anti-gay votes to overturn existing civil rights laws. In November 2002, four states - Maryland, Maine, Nevada and Oregon - are expected to vote on anti-gay ballot measures. Between November 2001 and November 2002, similar referendums are anticipated in Broward County and Dade County, Florida; Houston, Texas; and possibly Ypsilanti and Grand Haven, Michigan.
"Make no mistake: conservative forces throughout this country are engaged in a broad-based assault on our communities," said NGLTF Executive Director Lorri L. Jean. "But by building strong, local grassroots movements, we can defeat these efforts."
Dave Fleischer, who directs NGLTF's training initiative, pointed to Houston and Massachusetts as two examples of communities that are doing the early work that is necessary to win a ballot initiative.
In Houston, a group known as Progressive Voters in Action, relying on a small paid staff and hundreds of volunteers, is on track to have identified 40,000 GLBT and pro-GLBT voters by this November. The Houston City Council on Wednesday approved a sexual orientation nondiscrimination law for city employees, and right-wing activists have pledged to launch a referendum to overturn it.
In Massachusetts, a coalition of groups that included NGLTF, the Freedom to Marry Coalition of Massachusetts and the LGBT Political Alliance of Western Massachusetts earlier this month trained more than 30 activists in the art of voter canvassing. The group took its lessons to the streets - in the blue collar city of Worcester, 357 voters were canvassed in less than two hours, and 60 percent said they would oppose a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.
"We can win these elections if we do the work that is necessary," Fleischer said. "We have to be powerful enough and committed enough to campaign door to door, person to person. We have to take the time to discuss the reality of our lives with undecided voters and convince them to stand with us."
NGLTF has additional trainings scheduled this September in Chicago, late October in Houston, and in November at Milwaukee, the site of NGLTF Foundation's Creating Change conference. In addition, NGLTF soon will be announcing additional steps it is taking to fight anti-GLBT ballot measures.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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