Press

Task Force Calls on States’ Attorneys General to Launch Investigations of Fraudulent Practices in Anti-Gay Ballot Measures

Date: 
August 16, 2002

SAVE DADE CONTACT
Lisa Palley, Press Secretary, SAVE Dade
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http://www.savedade.org
1521 Alton Road, #163, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Miami Dade - Today the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called for the attorneys general of every state facing an anti-gay ballot initiative to launch investigations to determine whether signatures supporting efforts to deny rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people were fraudulently obtained. The announcement comes in the wake of the arrests of the head of the Christian Coalition in Miami-Dade, and of a teenager who collected signatures for a drive to repeal Miami-Dade County's gay rights amendment, for fraud in connection with the collection of signatures supporting the referendum.

"What we have known about the Christian Coalition's lack of integrity is now becoming apparent to all," said Lorri L. Jean, The Task Force's Executive Director, in commenting on the arrests. "In this campaign alone, they lied when they misrepresented the beliefs of the great Martin Luther King to the public; they lied when they said that Dr. King associate Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth supported them; and now it turns out they've lied about the signatures they've collected. It seems that these religious fanatics will break any Commandment in order to promote their hateful agenda of anti-gay bigotry."

The arrests of Anthony Verdugo, leader of the Miami-Dade arm of the Christian Coalition, and a 17-year-old volunteer are the first resulting from a year-long criminal investigation into whether the petition drive by Take Back Miami-Dade and the Christian Coalition was tainted by forged signatures and other irregularities. An August 16th Miami Herald article reported that more arrests are expected this week, according to a spokesman for the special prosecutor handling the case. The inquiry was prompted, in part, by concerns voiced by No to Discrimination/SAVE Dade, a group fighting the repeal effort, and the Miami-Dade Department of Elections. SAVE Dade contends that hundreds of petition signatures appear to be forgeries or duplicates, and the group has sued to block the vote.

"This most recent fraud discovery is part of a developing pattern across the country where the opponents of GLBT rights basically lie, cheat and steal to deceive the public into supporting them," Jean continued. Earlier this year, in Allentown, PA an anti-gay ballot measure was disqualified after 600 signers of the petition sent declarations to city officials stating that they had been misled about the intent of the measure by signature gatherers working for the group Citizens for Traditional Values. And in Massachusetts, signature gatherers for a petition to ban same-sex marriage actually told voters they'd be signing a petition to ban sending horses to slaughterhouses.

"There is one bright spot in the unmasking of these appalling and diabolical tactics by the religious right across the country," Jean said. "Whether they lie or tell their own distorted version of the truth, they are failing to convince the average, thinking American to deny basic rights to GLBT people."

Last November, of six GLBT-related ballot measures decided across the country, fairness prevailed in all but one. Only one anti-gay measure passed. In that sixth race, the outcome was decided by less than one percentage point.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is the only national GLBT rights organization with a specific program designed to turn back the tide of anti-gay ballot measures being promoted and funded by the religious right.

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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.