AUGUSTA, Maine — Opponents of same-sex marriage on Wednesday warned that “radical homosexual” groups concealing their true agendas were behind efforts to keep Maine’s gay marriage law on the books.
Those charges were denounced as “hate-filled speech” by the campaign defending gay marriage in Maine, however. And leaders from Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization behind the Nov. 3 ballot initiative to overturn Maine’s same-sex marriage law, quickly distanced themselves from the event.
“We disavow anything said today as being in any way connected to the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign,” said spokesman Scott Fish. “Whatever was said today was simply the words of the people speaking at the press conference.”
In a wide-ranging media event in the State House, three representatives from the Maine Grassroots Coalition, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality and Mass Resistance charged that “extreme groups” with agendas far outside the mainstream were supporting the No on 1 campaign. A small group of supporters also attended the event.
Speakers suggested that enactment of Maine’s gay marriage law will lead to “homosexual indoctrination” in schools as part of a bigger agenda that threatens families and society.
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth, described the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force — one of the nation’s most active gay rights groups — as having “one of the most radical sexual agendas ever conceived.” He also sought to link the group to efforts to legalize public sex and prostitution, claiming this is part of a larger agenda.
“Very clearly there is already a very aggressive agenda in the schools,” said LaBarbera when discussing a news report of a teacher answering a student’s question about her relationship with her partner. “Homosexual so-called marriage only fuels that agenda. It institutionalizes it so that there can be no difference in how this aber-rant form of ‘marriage’ is compared to the real thing.”
Dan Hawes, national field director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called LaBarbera’s statements about his organization’s policy positions “just ridiculous.” Hawes said he has never seen any public statements from NGLTF supporting ending laws prohibiting sex in public places or prostitution in his 11 years with the organization.
“He has made all sorts of accusations against us,” Hawes said.
LaBarbera’s statements seemed to be in reference to a 2004 announcement from NGLTF and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation of plans to study archaic or unjust laws that the organization said are used to persecute gays and lesbians.
Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for No on 1, was quick to denounce Wednesday’s press conference as a “political stunt” and called on Stand for Marriage Maine’s leaders to speak out against what he said was hate-filled rhetoric. Connolly also pointed out that the Southern Poverty Law Center lists Americans for Truth as an anti-gay hate group.
“If radical means loving the person you’ve been with for many years and trying to provide for that family and for your kids with that committed partner, then I see nothing wrong with that,” Connolly said.
Paul Madore with the Maine Grassroots Coalition, an avid campaigner against gay rights issues, and other speakers also sought to cast a negative light on some of the national organizations providing support to the No on 1 campaign.
“It does matter where money comes from,” said Madore. “And if there is someone here who has a problem with where our money comes from, from where the money for the Yes vote comes from, then just say so.”
Supporters of same-sex marriage have said so — quite loudly in recent weeks.
In fact, Stand for Marriage Maine’s largest single source of money — the National Organization for Marriage — has been in federal court in Portland this week fighting a Maine law that could force the organization to identify donors.
On Wednesday, a federal judge turned down a request by NOM to suspend Maine’s campaign reporting requirements for ballot initiatives.
Earlier this month, the Maine Ethics Commission initiated an investigation into whether NOM was violating campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the sources of the money the group has funneled to Stand for Marriage Maine. NOM was responsible for $1.6 million of the $2.6 million Stand for Marriage Maine had raised through Oct. 20.
NOM officials replied by filing suit, contending that Maine’s campaign disclosure law violates free speech laws by discouraging donations from people fearful of retribution from gay marriage supporters.
Connolly dismissed the attacks on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as well as the Human Rights Commission, two national organizations that have provided both financial and staff support to the No on 1 campaign.
“We are very proud of the 20,000 donors that we have from Maine and from across the country,” he said. “Have we received support from HRC and the Task Force? Absolutely. They are wonderful organizations that do a lot of good for a lot of good people.”