AGAINST GAYS, LESBIANS
Discrimination wins if fear rules the dayDon't sign petitions to repeal civil rights for homosexuals.
©Copyright 1997 Guy Gannett Communications
Opponents of extending Maine's anti-discrimination laws to gay men and lesbians say they do not hate homosexuals.
They have stressed this as they have worked to undo, through a referendum, the Legislature's decision to add sexual orientation to the list of classes protected under Maine's human rights statute. Indeed, in launching their recall petition drive, the Christian Coalition of Maine and the Christian Civic League pledged not to engage in hateful rhetoric. This is to their credit.
Still, if those who oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian people do not hate homosexuals, they surely fear them. Why they harbor this fear, though, remains a mystery.
Portland has chosen to protect the civil rights of gay men and lesbians for the past four years. The city is still standing. In fact, it stands a lot taller now that its homosexual citizens cannot be fired, denied an apartment or turned down for credit because of someone else's prejudice.
The civil rights opponents talk about a ''gay agenda'' and ''special rights.'' What this agenda is, though, beyond a desire to live free of discrimination, has never been made clear.
As for special rights, this incites fear needlessly. The phrase conjures up images of people empowered to trample on the rights of others. No one deserves special rights, and Maine's human rights law does not grant them. There isn't anything special about keeping one's job if one does the job well. That's how society is supposed to work.
This summer, representatives of the Christian Coalition of Maine and the Christian Civic League will be out peddling fear. They need 52,000 signatures within 90 days. If they get them, they'll be able to forestall the activation of the law extending civil rights protections to homosexuals. A referendum will then be held. That would be unfortunate and divisive, but the effort would fail. Maine would never vote to legalize discrimination.
The good news is that the people of Maine can stop this drive. They don't have to buy into the frightful rhetoric. They can, instead, summon the courage required to prevent discrimination.
If you are asked to sign a petition and become one of the fearful, just look the person making the request in the eye and say you are not afraid. Afraid of nothing, that is, except the notion that people could lose a job, credit or a home for simply being who they are.
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