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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2009
4:35 PM

CONTACT: People For the American Way (PFAW)

Stacey Gates or Drew Courtney at 202-467-4999 / media@pfaw.org

Outside Religious Right Groups Targeting Marriage Equality in Maine With a Prop 8-Style Campaign Based on Lies and Big Money

PFAW issues report on Religious Right's Anti-Equality Campaign

WASHINGTON - September 17 - People For the American Way issued a report today that documents how the Religious Right is targeting marriage equality in Maine with big money and false attacks, virtually identical to the fearmongering strategies in 2008's Proposition 8 campaign in California.

"The fight to protect marriage equality in Maine hasn't gotten the same national attention that Prop 8 did in California, but national Religious Right organizations are pouring resources into their anti-equality effort," said Peter Montgomery, Senior Fellow at People For the American Way.  "The far right is determined to deny equality to same-sex couples in Maine, no matter what it takes.  Fortunately, a smart Mainer-led campaign is mobilizing support for the state's marriage equality law and the families it will protect."

The report, titled "Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality With Money, Anti-Gay Swat Teams and Reprise of Prop. 8's False Fearmongering Strategies," details national Religious Right organizations' campaign to reverse gains by marriage equality advocates in the northeast:

  • This past weekend, national anti-gay leaders and veterans of last year's Prop 8 battle in California descended on Maine.  The National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family brought a national A-list of anti-gay activists to town for a no-press-allowed rally on Sunday and a closed-door "pastors briefing" on Monday.  Among the Religious Right celebrities were Harry Jackson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, as well as San Diego preacher Chris Clark.  San Diego was the center of church-based anti-gay organizing in California.
  • The right-wing is not interested in running a "fact-filled" and "honest, civil and respectful campaign," and are instead choosing the low road of fearmongering and false attacks - much like we saw in California.  Frank Schubert, the California-based political consultant who ran the Prop 8 campaign and was brought to Maine by Religious Right groups to try to replicate his success, concocted a campaign strategy based on scaring enough people into believing that marriage equality would somehow turn public schools into gay indoctrination centers.  Schubert has done plenty of bragging about how his firm shifted gears and won the campaign by creating fear and uncertainty about the effects of marriage equality on children. 
  • The money has poured into the campaign against marriage equality in Maine, with more than 99 percent of the early money coming from four organizations, and less than 1 percent coming from Maine voters.  Four groups account for $341,000 of the $343,000 anti-gay marriage funds reported on July disclosure forms:  the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage contributed $160,000; the Catholic diocese of Portland anted up $100,000; the Knights of Columbus chipped in $50,000, and Focus on the Family Maine added $31,000.  Contributions from Maine individuals amounted to $400, less than one percent of the amount raised.  Some donations from Maine were likely funneled through the National Organization for Marriage, which has this year been enthusiastically encouraging its supporters to launder their contributions to anti-gay initiatives through NOM in order to thwart state campaign finance laws designed to let the public know who is paying for campaigns.

"Anti-gay leaders have realized that they cannot reverse progress toward equality with an honest debate, so they've resorted to the politics of fear," said People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan.  "It's important that Mainers get the full story about who is playing politics with their state."

The full report can be viewed here.  Interviews with PFAW public policy experts about these strategies can be arranged via our Communications Department at 202-467-4999.

 

 

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People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry.



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