BANGOR — There’s disagreement on the Right.
A group calling itself the Coalition to End Special Rights came to Bangor Thursday to launch a statewide effort to support a referendum that would deny homosexuals status as a protected class.
The issue will be decided at the Nov. 7 elections.
But Concerned Maine Families, the group that the coalition claims to support, announced Thursday afternoon that it would hold a press conference at the home of group’s founder, Carolyn Cosby, in Portland, “to show documents that the Coalition to End Special Rights does not nor did it ever intend to support Concerned Maine Families’ referendum.”
Concerned Maine Families claims that members of the Big Right made a substantial monetary offer that would have paid off CMF’s legal debts to buy out the CMF campaign. “The purpose was to allow outside groups influence in Maine and thus redefine the message of the Maine initiative toward a campaign based on bigotry and disgust,” says the CMF statement.
“This act of attempted political arm-twisting and political bribery, driven by out-of-state national interests, has been organized by Mr. Michael Heath, director for the Christian Civic League of Maine, and Mr. Paul Madore, the leader of the Coalition to End Special Rights,” says the release.
Conerned Maine Families said that, ordinarily, any campaign is more than happy to receive all of the support it can attract. “Only under the most extreme circumstances would any campaign organization publicly denounce what would appear to be an endorsement.”
The statement concluded, “Sadly, and with great reluctance, Concerned Maine Families, our Maine-based citizens-led grass-roots organization, finds itself exactly in that place.”
Without first seeing the “so-called evidence” that Cosby said she will unveil, Heath said late Thursday that it would not be appropriate for him to comment.
“All I can say is that the Christian Civic League of Maine and the Coalition to End Special Rights is supporting the yes vote in November.”
The chairman of the coalition is Paul Madore, who led the successful campaign three years ago to repeal special legislation for homosexuals in Lewiston.
He was joined by Michael Heath, executive director of Christian Civic League of Maine, and Bob Knight, director of cultural studies for the Family Research Council in Washington.
Madore said the group had volunteers in all 16 counties who would be working to turn out a yes vote. He denied what he said were media reports that the group has anywhere from $500,000 to $9 million funded by national organizations. He said the group got its funding one dollar at a time, primarily from Maine people.
Madore, who said he began his involvement in the homosexual rights debate three years ago, said he found it necessary to make the distinction between the homosexual movement and individual homosexuals.
“It is not the person as an individual that we are opposed to. I want to stress that,” Madore said. “They should have our love and care as they do God’s. We’re concerned with the movement as a force and the distorted ideology and condition that it promotes, a condition that poses a serious threat to our schools, our communities, our children and families.”
He said,”The homosexual rights movement along with the help of a biased media has cleverly been successful in wrapping itself around the issue of discrimination by boldly stating that Maine people, in their discernment between right and wrong, are guilty of hatred and bigotry.
He said the media, so far, had been a not-so-silent partner with the opponents to the referendum.
Christian Civic League of Maine Executive Director Michael Heath said the only thing needed for victory in November was one polished stone. “David toppled Goliath with one well-aimed stone, backed by the courage to stand on the side of truth against overwhelming odds.”
Heath maintained that thousands of Maine people were represented by the people at the press conference and they were mobilizing to say “yes to family values, yes to stop special gay rights.”
“Our Goliath is the modern deception that homosexuality should qualify a person for special legal protections. That deception is backed by more than one-half million dollars,” said Heath. He vowed that during the next seven weeks the Coalition to End Special Rights will uncover the “deception” and reveal “the truth” about Question 1 — that the referendum is about gay rights and not about smokers, whistleblowers, Workers’ Compensation claimants or veterans.
Passage of Question 1, he said, would maintain the integrity of Maine’s human rights law, which was consistent with the federal government’s list of minority classes.
Question 1, he said, would prohibit the addition of homosexuality to local lists of protected or minority classes. A yes vote would discourage the Legislature from adding homosexuality to Maine’s list of minority classes in the future.
He said it was disappointing but not surprising to see Maine’s political leadership take its cues from the campaign playbook of gay rights suppporters.
He said the Supreme Judicial Court had ruled that the initiative was not disguised to amend the Constitution and it was not misleading.
Robert Knight said his group was pleased to assist the coalition in helping to “educate” voters.
Predicting the referendum would pass, he said it would send a clear message to the nation that Mainers would not allow hard-won protections for minorities to be hijacked by a small group intent on using government power to force affirmation of their behavior on the rest of society.
Knight said he was a native of Maine from Cape Elizabeth, a graduate of the University of Maine, a journalist of 15 years, and an Eagle Scout of Troop 80. He said he did not want to see Maine become a gay rights state.
“As a Maine native I am deeply committed to defending the freedom to live according to traditional morality and the freedom to consult one’s most deeply held values when making business decisions. As an Eagle Scout, Troop 80, Cape Elizabeth, I am determined to continue their good work unmolested by those who would outlaw their moral code,” Knight said.
Opponents of Question 1, Knight said, feared the voters of Maine. They fear their common sense, their fairness and their well-grounded inclination to reject unsubstantiated claims for special rights, he said.
Richard Rockwell, pastor of the Bangor Baptist Church, who invited the group to a meeting at the church’s radio station, WHCF, after the conference, said he was attending to hear what the group said and to offer his support.
He told the press before the conference that he has watched the battle for gay rights for more than 20 years and has seen the issue fail in the Legislature many times.
As head of a church, school and radio station, he said he was concerned about what passage of special rights for homosexuals would mean in hiring practices. He said moral opposition to hiring someone because of the sexual lifestyle in his school, church or radio station was not hate-mongering.
He said he was concerned now with such legislation because the moral climate in Augusta had changed and the leaders of the House, Senate and the governor have all indicated they would approve special rights legislation and that Gov. Angus King would sign it. He said the Bible teaches that adultery, drunkenness and homosexuality are sins.
A yes on the referendum, he said, tells the legislators, “We are not in favor of you passing special rights for them.”