PFAW Hails Gay Rights Victory in Maryland

‘Just outcome’ despite unjust tactics by Religious Right extremists

Today, People For the American Way congratulated Maryland and its citizens for becoming the 12th state in the country to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Anti-Discrimination Act of 2001 was signed into law by Gov. Parris N. Glendening in May, but was temporarily shelved when the anti-gay group TakeBackMaryland.org claimed to gather enough signatures to force the law onto the November 2002 ballot. Last month, a court-appointed special master called the validity of many of those signatures into question.

News reports today indicate that the Religious Right opponents of the law have given up their ill-gotten referendum under a settlement reached with the state and gay rights supporters. The settlement will spare the state, and especially its gay community, what promised to be a nasty campaign. It also permits the law to take effect immediately.

News reports have also detailed misconduct by gay rights opponents, who saw the November 2002 ballot as their best chance to overturn the law. The signature gatherers reportedly engaged in practices that violated election and other laws. The notoriously anti-gay Culture and Family Institute complained that the allegations, if developed into a criminal inquiry, could leave gay rights opponents “under the gun of litigation for months and months.”

Said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas, “It’s a shame the Religious Right launched this win-at-any-cost scheme. I applaud the gay rights advocates who worked within the system and in observance of the rule of law. It’s tough to play fair when your opponent refuses to, but it paid off, making this an especially just outcome.”

The Anti-Discrimination Act of 2001 prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment and housing and at places of public accommodation such as restaurants and hotels. The law was originally to have taken effect on Oct. 1. PFAW had pledged to work with Free State Justice, Maryland’s gay rights advocacy group, if the law went to referendum.

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