Press

Maine voters reject anti-gay ballot initiative

Date: 
November 08, 2005

'Much-needed victory for the national movement'

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force praises stellar grassroots organizing campaign; contributed more than $170,000 to fuel the fight

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

PORTLAND, Maine, Nov. 8 — Voters in Maine today defeated a ballot initiative seeking to repeal the state's new law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination. Near-complete returns showed about 55 percent of voters opposing the repeal of the nondiscrimination law. Twice before, in 1998 and in 2000, voters rejected similar nondiscrimination laws by narrow margins. Maine is the 17th state to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and the 7th to protect transgender people from discrimination.

"Today's win proves that dogged, grassroots organizing can overcome the lies and smears of anti-gay zealots and the profound unfairness of having minority rights put up for a popular vote," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "After the marriage amendment losses we've experienced over the last 12 months, this is a much-needed victory for our national movement — it proves we can win statewide contests. Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender American is deeply indebted to the staff and volunteers of Maine Won't Discriminate, and to the people of Maine for embracing fairness and rejecting bigotry."

The Task Force made significant investments to identify pro-LGBT voters and defend the anti-discrimination law, including cash grants of $169,500 over the last two years (including $94,500 to Maine Won't Discriminate), sending seasoned staff who took key roles in the campaign, and operating phone banks in New York and Washington D.C. (This work is detailed below.)

"The Task Force has been an integral part of our efforts to keep this law on the books from the beginning. They provided critical organizing expertise and generous financial support," said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Maine Won't Discriminate. "With their help, we grew the campaign's volunteer capacity, which was the fuel that brought us to victory on Election Day."

Margin Proves the Value of Voter Identification & Get-Out-The-Vote Work

Because the last two contests in Maine were so close (the measure in 2000 lost by less than 5,000 votes), voter identification and get-out-the-vote work was considered crucial. Starting in 2003, Equality Maine began an ambitious program to identify pro-LGBT voters through door-to-door canvassing in Portland. This work has been funded by three successive $25,000 Community Impact Fund grants from the Task Force. That effort resulted in more than 8,000 new pro-LGBT identifications, which were made available to the Maine Won't Discriminate campaign. In turn, the campaign focused on these voters and others identified from previous campaigns and identification work, encouraging them to vote early. This clearly paid off: more people voted early than in any prior off-year election in the state's history, and appears to have provided the margin of victory.

Campaign by Repeal Proponents Called "Reprehensible"

The Task Force called the tactics of the proponents of the repeal effort, including the Christian Civic League of Maine and the Coalition for Marriage, "reprehensible." Written materials claimed the nondiscrimination law meant that "a pedophile cannot be barred from a job as a public school teacher." Television and radio ads asked voters to repeal the law to keep it from "from forever changing the innocence of our children" and to "protect your right to protect your children."

"These overt attempts to link gay people with child abuse are disgusting, reprehensible and immoral," Foreman said. "While we are gratified the people of Maine rejected them, these kinds of smears cause long-lasting damage. If Michael Heath or Paul Madore had one shred of decency, they would beg for forgiveness, but they do not." (Heath and Madore were leaders of the campaign to repeal the law and longtime Maine anti-LGBT activists.)

By the Numbers

The Task Force's investments in Maine included:

  • $75,000 in grants to Equality Maine to identify pro-LGBT voters.
  • $94,500 in cash contributions to Maine Won't Discriminate to fight the repeal effort.
  • Sending seasoned staff to work on the campaign, some of whom took key roles in volunteer recruitment and the GOTV campaign.
  • Intensive training of more than two dozen Maine activists.
  • Operating 19 phone-bank sessions from New York and Washington, D.C., involving 198 volunteers and live contacts with 3,656 pro-LGBT voters in Maine.

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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.