AUGUSTA — Question 1, the referendum to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine, represents the latest salvo in a national assault on the rights of people who oppose a “gay agenda,” three longtime opponents of gay rights told a sympathetic audience of about 35 people Monday morning at the State House.
The media, in part, provides the ammunition for those salvos, they argued.
Peter LaBarbera of Illinois-based Americans for Truth about Homosexuality joined Paul Madore and Michael Heath, two veteran opponents of gay rights in Maine and co-chairmen of the No Special Rights PAC, in the Hall of Flags to present what they believe to be the real stakes in the same-sex marriage debate.
As silent men stood to either side of the podium holding banners proclaiming “God’s marriage = 1 man and 1 woman” and “Stop Promoting Homosexuality to Children,” the trio lambasted the media, government and even some Mainers working to defeat Question 1 for failing to deliver the message that homosexuality is, in Heath’s words, “intrinsically harmful and evil.”
“The truth about the homosexual rights movement is hidden,” said Heath, who served as executive director of the Maine Christian Civic League from the mid-1990s until he resigned in 2009. “The pro-family movement hides this fact for the fear of being labeled bigots.”
In a phone interview Monday, the Rev. Bob Emrich of Protect Marriage Maine said that his organization, which is leading the campaign against Question 1, has not conversed with Madore and Heath about this year’s referendum. He said his organization’s sole focus is on whether Maine will redefine marriage.
“They have no way of knowing what our motive is,” Emrich said of Madore and Heath. “We are not hiding from anything. We are simply trying to convince voters to vote against Question 1. The issue is about marriage. … This is about what we’re voting on.”
Madore, who has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights and same-sex marriage initiatives in Maine since the early 1990s, told the crowd, which included a contingent of suit-clad men from the Pennsylvania-based American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, that if Question 1 passes, “you give up your rights to free association.”
Citing an Oct. 12 BDN report in which pollster Patrick Murphy of Pan Atlantic SMS raised concerns about contradictory answers to questions about Question 1, Madore accused the media, the courts, universities and pollsters of being complicit in allowing a “pro-homosexual lobby” to influence public opinion.
“The media has a double standard the size of a dump truck,” said LaBarbera, who came to Maine from Illinois and served alone as the rally’s guest speaker after a Massachusetts man could not travel to Augusta because of Monday’s storm. “The media has the gay activists’ back. … If there was a fair media, 75 percent to 80 percent of American society would be opposed to the gay agenda.”
As evidence, LaBarbera cited an October 2011 incident in which two bricks were thrown through glass doors at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Ill., allegedly to protest an appearance by Scott Lively, an outspoken opponent of gay rights. LaBarbera criticized the media’s lack of coverage of what he labeled an act of terrorism.
LaBarbera and Madore also equated what they believe to be media shortfalls in sharing their perspectives on the “gay agenda” to the delay in reporting details of a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Suggesting that listing gay rights as “civil rights” does a disservice to Martin Luther King Jr., LaBarbera predicted that if Question 1 passes, “Christians and people who have moral opposition to homosexuality will lose their rights.”
In closing remarks, Madore reiterated LaBarbera’s rejection of the notion that gay rights should be considered civil rights. “Gay marriage is not a civil right,” he said. Instead, he argued, it’s a way to use the legal system to indoctrinate young people.
LaBarbera and Madore also shared their beliefs that the “pro-homosexual lobby” has a “devious” and “cunning” incremental agenda that starts with laws against hate crimes, then moves to anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation and eventually same-sex marriage.
David Farmer, communications director for Mainers United for Marriage, which is leading the campaign for passage of Question 1, rebuffed that criticism, saying that Madore and Heath “are good at saying outrageous things,” but that their “rhetoric is marginalized by their allies.” Farmer emphasized that passage of Question 1 would not require any religious institution or clergy person to perform a marriage with which he or she disagrees.
“Our campaign has had more than 250,000 conversations where people are talking to their friends, neighbors and co-workers about why marriage matters to them and why same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. While not everyone agrees, the overwhelming majority have been civil,” Farmer said.
Question 1 is the second statewide vote on same-sex marriage in three years, following a 2009 people’s veto that overturned the Legislature’s passage of legalized same-sex marriage earlier that year. Madore expressed frustration about revisiting the issue so soon after the people’s veto.
“What we need in Maine is a marriage amendment,” he said to cheers Monday.
In a financial disclosure statement filed Friday to the Maine Ethics Commission, the No Special Rights PAC reported receiving $1,652 and spent $1,001 to oppose Question 1.