(Many thanks to Pam for help with my first diary yesterday)
Today’s Portland Press Herald ran a follow-up to yesterday’s story about Michael Heath/ CCL’s latest stunt. First, a timeline:
GAY RIGHTS IN MAINE
MAY 4, 1993: Maine’s Legislature passes statewide gay rights bill for the first time since the fight began in 1977. Gov. John R. McKernan vetoes the bill.
NOV. 7, 1995: Voters reject a proposal by Carolyn Cosby and her Concerned Maine Families to prohibit passage of gay rights laws in Maine and to invalidate existing ordinances in Portland and Long Island.
MAY 1997: Legislature approves gay rights bill. Gov. Angus King signs it, but opponents mount a petition drive seeking a statewide referendum to overturn it.
FEB. 10, 1998: Voters repeal the gay rights law.
APRIL 3, 2000: The Maine Senate approves a referendum on a proposed law prohibiting bias based on sexual orientation. The House approves the measure a day later.
NOV. 7, 2000: Voters defeat the gay rights referendum.
JAN. 25, 2005: Gov. John Baldacci uses his State of the State Address to reiterate his promise to introduce a gay rights bill.
JAN. 26, 2005: Baldacci says his bill will not seek a referendum on gay rights because he believes the Legislature, not voters, should pass the legislation.
MARCH 30, 2005: The Legislature approves the bill.
MARCH 31, 2005: Baldacci signs the bill as a group of church pastors and the Christian Civic League of Maine announce plans to try to overturn it.
JUNE 28, 2005: Gay rights opponents submit petitions to force a “people’s veto” referendum.
NOV. 8, 2005: Voters reject the “people’s veto” and endorse the law, 55 percent to 45 percent.
DEC. 28, 2005: The law takes effect.
And the article in today’s paper:
Gay-rights repeal effort surprises many
Backers see the planned referendum as timely, while repeal opponents consider it gratuitous.
By PAUL CARRIER, Staff Writer
April 11, 2008
AUGUSTA – A push by the Christian Civic League of Maine to repeal the state’s gay-rights law and prohibit adoptions by unmarried couples surprised many this week because civil rights for gays and lesbians has had a low profile in Maine in recent years.
But supporters of the proposal, which could go on the statewide ballot in November 2009, say the timing is right because gays and lesbians have continued to make strides in the courts and elsewhere since voters upheld the state’s anti-discrimination law in 2005.
Those conflicting perceptions of recent developments underscore the fact that backers and opponents of gay rights view the issue through very different lenses.
And that helps explain why one side sees the planned referendum as timely while the other characterizes it as gratuitous.
In addition to repealing the gay-rights law and blocking adoptions by gay and lesbian couples, the sweeping proposal would bar the state from legalizing civil unions and same-sex marriage in Maine and eliminate state funding for a program in the Attorney General’s Office that promotes civil rights in the schools.
The last time gay rights made headlines for an extended period in Maine was in 2005, when voters upheld an anti-discrimination law passed by the Legislature.
The issue has not attracted much attention since then, partly because Maine activists have not capitalized on that victory by pushing to legalize civil unions or same-sex marriages.
The gay-rights law, which took effect in late 2005, makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation in employment, credit, education, housing and lodging, just as it has been illegal for years to discriminate based on age, gender, religion and other factors.
The Maine Human Rights Commission, which oversees compliance with the law, has received some complaints alleging discrimination based on orientation, but the numbers have been too small to attract widespread notice.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, for example, only 33 of the 1,097 complaints filed with the commission, 3 percent of the total, involved sexual orientation.
Similarly, the creation of a domestic-partners registry in Maine in 2004 did not produce a flood of registrations or attract much public or media attention in the years that followed.
The registry provides legal safeguards “similar to that of a married person” in areas such as probate, guardianship, inheritance and protection from abuse, according to a state Web site.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the registry, reports that fewer than 1,000 couples have registered and more than 50 of them have since withdrawn from the registry.
That leaves fewer than 950 registered couples as of this week, in a state with about 1.3 million residents.
Betsy Smith of Equality Maine, an advocacy group, called the referendum effort “perplexing,” saying it seems to have come “out of the blue.”
Michael Heath of the Christian Civic League said the timing makes sense because his group believes the gay-rights law is quietly worming its way into the public schools.
Now that state law specifically bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, Heath said, the state’s civil-rights teams are free to discuss the safeguard with public school students.
Now, up to here, I read it as a case where Heath et al wanted to “correct” what they saw as a wrong committed by Maine voters in 2005. Then I read this:
Heath said a 2007 case in which a male student in Orono was allowed to use a girls’ restroom because he allegedly was being raised as a girl underscores the dangers posed by the gay-rights law.
Kelly Clenchy, the superintendent in Orono, confirmed Thursday that a male student at the Asa Adams Elementary School briefly used a girls’ restroom in September 2007.
Clenchy said “the situation has been rectified” since then and “appropriate accommodations” have been provided for the student. He declined to elaborate.
“The things we anticipated happening are starting to happen,” Heath…