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National NOW Times >> August 1995 >> Article

NOW Joins the Fight for Equality in Maine

by Kimberlee M. Ward

The fight to defeat Maine's anti- lesbian and gay referendum was bolstered with a commitment from national NOW to raise funds and provide staff support for field organizing. A resolution pledging support was overwhelmingly adopted by the delegates last weekend at the organizational's annual conference. Together with Maine NOW and chapter activists and in liaison with Maine Won't Discriminate, NOW officers and staff will join in a major field organizing campaign to ensure the defeat of the ballot question.

In 1992, the NOW Action Center deployed personnel and resources to the field to support the campaign against Colorado's Amendment 2, which is similar to the Maine referendum. In 1993, NOW joined in the effort to defeat a Lewiston, Maine referendum that removed sexual orientation from the city's human rights code.

If the statewide referendum is successful, Portland's lesbian and gay rights ordinance would be stricken, and communities in Maine would be prohibited from adopting similar laws in the future. Unlike the Colorado amendment, the wording in the Maine referendum makes no reference to lesbians and gays, but limits civil rights protection to specific classifications, including race, gender and age. Despite the wording's neutrality, the radical right group supporting the referendum, Concerned Maine Families, has made it clear that lesbians and gay men are the targets of the amendment.

NOW President Patricia Ireland declared, "NOW deplores the repeated assaults against lesbian and gay rights. Every person's rights are at stake when the government starts targeting individual groups for legalized discrimination."

Opposition to the extremist referendum is widespread. Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, Rep. John Baldacci, State Senator Dale McCormick and Governor Angus King are among many public figures who have joined Maine's Attorney General Michael Carpenter in speaking out against the referendum. Carpenter, who supports a statewide lesbian and gay rights law, said that passage of the referendum would make it more difficult to enforce Maine's hate crimes statute.

In an effort to mobilize as many people as possible before the November vote, NOW is currently seeking contacts in Maine. Activists are urged to call friends or family living in Maine and NOW's Lesbian Rights Program Director, at the National NOW Action Center, 202-628-8669.

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