Magazine article The Nation

Maine's Gay Retreat

Magazine article The Nation

Maine's Gay Retreat

Article excerpt

Gays could be the first, victims of a backlash provoked by TV's tsunami of explicit coverage in the Monica Lewinsky mess. That's one lesson that may be drawn from Maine's February 10 referendum, in which voters repealed, 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent, the state's law barring discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Despite the fact that the pro-gay rights coalition Maine Won't Discriminate outspent repeal supporters five to one (mounting a TV ad campaign featuring the state's popular governor, Angus King Jr.), a get-out-the-vote effort led by the Christian Civic League of Maine and the Christian Coalition overcame what pre-balloting polls showed was more than 60 percent of the state's residents favoring the gay rights law.

In 1995 Maine voters turned down, 53 percent to 47 percent, a ballot initiative that would have repealed local gay rights ordinances like the one in Portland. Why the reversal? According to the Bangor Daily News, the 30 percent turnout this year was 10 percent higher than expected. Some Down East human rights activists believe that the tube's prime-time discussions of oral sex and other carnal details in the Lewinsky affair helped the Christian right motivate voters who wanted to protest against what they perceived as "loose morals" on the small screen and in the White House. Or, as the Christian Civic League's director, Michael Heath, explained the victory, "It was the sense we all have that there is a right way and a wrong way. …

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