An Open Letter to Progressive Allies from People for the American Way on the Importance of Defeating Question 1 in Maine

September 29, 2009

To: Progressive Allies

Fr: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way

Re: The Importance of Defeating Question 1 in Maine

I am writing to urge you to lend whatever support you are able to provide to the No on 1 campaign in Maine. The far right has made banning same-sex marriage in Maine a test of its ability to stop the newfound momentum in America toward equality and reverse the progressive agenda Americans voted for last November. We cannot allow the Right to prevail.

I know that progressive advocates are stretched in many ways, pushing hard to win passage of health care reform over brutally intense opposition, to build support for a new path on energy policy, and much more. I also know that marriage equality may not be on or near your list of top priorities. But People For the American Way firmly believes that defeating this anti-equality initiative is vital not only to same-sex couples and their families, but also to the broader progressive movement. We urge you to encourage your members and activists to back the No on 1 / Protect Maine Equality campaign.

The political forces behind the Maine initiative are essentially the same ones that are battling health care reform and trying to destroy the Obama administration's ability to advance a progressive agenda. And they are pursuing the same strategy that is now the hallmark of right-wing organizing: spreading outrageous lies and exploiting the uncertainty, insecurities, and ignorance that they and their allies in the media create and promote.

The so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which has billed itself as a way for right-wing donors to hide their involvement in anti-gay initiative campaigns, has poured huge sums of money into Maine to overturn the marriage equality law approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. Maine is a crucial line in the sand. Anti-gay leaders complained for years that courts, not legislatures, were dismantling barriers to equality. But when legislatures in New England began to pass equality legislation, they changed their tune and turned up the volume on their fear mongering.

NOM leaders are closely allied with other right-wing efforts. NOM chair Maggie Gallagher has been part of the anti-reform campaign on health care, falsely claiming that "for the already insured, Obamacare will mean less care, rationed by government. For the uninsured it will mean much greater expense. Less care, higher costs."

In the District of Columbia, where NOM has recently opened an office, NOM ally Bishop Harry Jackson has engaged in a disgraceful race-baiting campaign designed to drive a wedge between churchgoing African Americans and the broader progressive community. Like other NOM allies, Jackson's activism extends across the political agenda. During the past two years he has served as a shill for oil drilling interests by accusing environmental organizations of waging a "war on the poor."; And in a recent publication by the Heritage Foundation designed to cement relationships between economic and social conservatives, Jackson argues against minimum wage and living wage protections for workers.

The anti-equality campaign in Maine is fundamentally based on a lie, which is that giving same-sex couples the same rights as other couples will somehow force schools to start teaching young students about gay sex. The campaign has been repeatedly called out by the Maine press for lying to voters. After being challenged on a recent dishonest television ad, a campaign spokesperson shrugged it off, saying its ads were not meant to be taken literally. That mirrors the rampant cynicism and dishonesty at the heart of right-wing organizing on so many of the issues we all care about.

Defeating Question 1 is about upholding the core constitutional value of equal treatment for same-sex couples and respecting the rule of law. But it is also about much more it's about blunting the political momentum of the right-wing movement and its reliance on increasingly divisive and dangerous propaganda campaigns portraying advocates for progress as enemies of faith, family, and freedom.

To lend your assistance to the No on 1 campaign, contact Protect Maine Equality at www.protectmaineequality.org/.

You can also learn more about the Right's aggressive efforts in Maine by reading our recent report

Sincerely,
Michael B. Keegan signature
Michael B. Keegan
President
People For the American Way

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