Washington, DC -- Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, released the following statement in response to victories of marriage equality ballot measures in Maine and Maryland, the lead for a marriage equality measure in Washington, and the defeat of a discriminatory marriage amendment in Minnesota:
"Yesterday was a great day for progressive values, and none more than the American value of equality under the law. For the first time in our history, voters accepted marriage equality at the polls, with marriage equality measures passing in two states and poised to pass in another. In a landmark victory, voters also rejected a discriminatory marriage amendment. And, for the first time in our history an openly gay American won a seat in the U.S. Senate. This is not a fluke, it is a watershed.
"Eight years ago, George W. Bush and Karl Rove hitched their reelection effort to anti-gay animus, pushing discriminatory ballot measures in 11 states in an effort to boost their own campaign. Yesterday, Americans decisively reelected the first president to publicly support marriage equality and turned out to the polls to support their LGBT neighbors.
"These votes are victories for families in Maine, Maryland and Washington who will now have access to many of the protections of marriage. But they are also victories for all Americans, who step by step are building a country where all our neighbors are treated with decency and respect. We have a lot of work left to do, but this much is clear: the politics of exclusion and discrimination is no longer a winning formula."
This week the Equal Justice Task Force of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action released a statement in support of the marriage equality ballot measures in Maryland, Maine, and Washington and opposing a discriminatory marriage amendment in Minnesota.
“At this moment in history, it is important that we stand on the side of faith, compassion, and equality instead of on the side of discrimination and oppression,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way. “We’ve seen again and again that when laws prevent gay and lesbian couples from getting the protections that only marriage can provide, all families are harmed and all communities suffer. As an African American and a woman I am frightened when one group attempts to limit or restrict the rights of others. We urge voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington to reject discrimination and vote to strengthen and affirm all families.”
General Mills was immediately attacked when it announced its opposition to a proposed amendment in Minnesota, where the company is based, that would enshrine the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in its constitution. National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown called the move “ludicrous” and claimed that the company “effectively declared a war on marriage” and Minnesota for Marriage began holding protests to “Dump General Mills.” Today, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council weighed in during his daily radio bulletin by attacking the cereal company for becoming a “general nuisance”:
Perkins: In the marriage debate, General Mills just became a general nuisance. Hello, I'm Tony Perkins with the Family Research Council in Washington. One of America's largest food companies has an appetite for liberal politics. Five months before voters head to the polls, General Mills decided to weigh in on Minnesota's marriage amendment. Like Starbucks, the company tried to argue that marriage is bad for business--a theory that's absolutely ridiculous. Forbes magazine did a feature on the "best states for business"--and 18 of the top 20 protect natural marriage. Still, a spokesman says, "We don't believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy... We oppose it." Experts say it's a "very risky" position--especially since General Mills makes billions of dollars marketing brands to parents of kids--like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Yoplait, Cheerios, Chex, Wheaties, and Lucky Charms. It may impress their corporate friends, but it's customers that count.
Over the past few weeks, more progressive elected officials are not just voting against ALEC inspired legislation that would privatize public services and make a few people very rich, they are calling it out by name and raising awareness of how ALEC serves as a vehicle to enact a corporate wish list into law in states across the country.
“Exactly who did the Republicans in the legislature listen to? Well, three of the four bills come right from this manual, Tort Reform Boot Camp, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. This is the same group who reportedly provided legislators last week with all-expense paid trips to a posh Florida hotel for what they call an “education policy conference.” It is an extremely conservative group, funded largely by large corporations, big business associations, insurance companies and very wealthy individuals. I’ve found that Minnesotans do not want their laws written by the lobbyists of big corporations.
“Since these Republican bills so closely follow ALEC’s instructions on tort reform, and since ALEC’s opinion on these subjects are evidently more important to Republican legislators than mine, their fellow legislator’s or the Supreme Court’s, perhaps they would share with us all of the other ALEC boot camp manuals, so we can know in advance what to expect from them for the rest of this session. If Republicans want to continue to prove to Minnesotans that they are too extreme to lead, they should continue to throw ALEC’s ideology at us. If they want to begin to govern responsibly, and work collaboratively, pass real jobs legislation – and my three measures have not even been taken up – real jobs legislations that will put Minnesotans back to work, then I’m ready to work with them. And I’m waiting.”
Just last week, Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D) decided to take action as well. He joined ALEC to gain access to the bill templates, and then took to the floor to expose the origins of AB110, a bill that would damage the public education system by giving special taxpayer subsidies to private schools for special needs children.
“This is part of dismantling public education in Wisconsin, and Florida, and Ohio, and every single state it’s introduced in,” Pocan explained. “This bill doesn’t come from this body, this bill is an identical bill that’s been introduced brought by special interests by ALEC and introduced state by state by state.”
ALEC’s secret jig is up. The American people don’t want their laws to be written by corporations, and they’ve made their voices heard. Now, our elected representatives – that is, the ones who are actually representing us, not wealthy special interests – are taking a stand too. ALEC’s pro- corporate agenda can only advance if kept secret. Kudos to those elected officials with the courage to shine the spotlight on this undemocratic organization.