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Maine Legal Rebuttal to Yes Ads

Maine Legal Rebuttal to Yes Ads

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Published by: G-A-Y on Sep 19, 2009
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09/18/2009

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 1M E M O R A N D U MTo: Members of Maine MediaFrom: Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell (Vassalboro); Speaker of the House HannahPingree (North Haven); Representative Emily Cain (Orono); Former AttorneyGeneral Steven Rowe; Former Attorney General James Tierney; Dean PeterPitegoff, University of Maine School Of Law; David Cluchey, Professor,University of Maine School of LawRe: Yes on 1 (Stand for Marriage) Advertisements of Sept. 15, 2009Date: Sept. 18, 2009The Television and Radio AdsThe Yes on 1 Campaign began running a television advertisement providing as follows:Narrator: Special interest groups got the legislature to approve homosexualmarriage, and tried to prevent Mainers from voting. But Question 1 gives us ourvote.Professors Scott Fitzgibbon (Boston College Law School): Unless Question 1passes there will be real consequences for Mainers. Legal experts predict a floodof lawsuits against individuals, small businesses and religious groups. Churchorganizations could lose their tax exempt status. Homosexual marriage – taughtin public schools whether parents like it or not.Narrator: Vote yes on question one to preserve traditional marriage between oneman and one woman.In addition, the Yes on 1 Campaign is running a radio advertisement as follows:Speaker Pingree: The Chair recognizes the representative from Brunswick.Narrator: Special interest groups got the legislature to approve homosexualmarriage and tried to prevent Mainers from voting on it. Representative CharlesPriest.Rep. Charles Priest: We ought not to sent it out to referendumNarrator: ButQuestion 1 gives us our vote. Scott Fitzgibbon, Professor of Law of BostonCollege Law SchoolScott Fitzgibbon: “Unless Question 1 passes, there will be real consequences forMainers. It will not longer be live and let live. Homosexual marriage will be thelaw whether Mainers like it or not.”Voice Over: Dear Governor Baldacci, we write to provide you with an analysisof the effects…”
 
 2 Professor Fitzgibbon: Distinguished legal scholars wrote the Governor warningof the flood of lawsuits against individuals, small businesses, and religiousgroups. Church organizations could lose their tax exemption. And inMassachusetts, homosexual marriage is taught in public schools. Federal courtshave ruled that parents have no right to notice, or to pull their children out of thisinstruction.Narrator: Vote Yes on Question 1 to preserve traditional marriage between oneman and one woman. Paid for by Stand for Marriage Maine. Titles foridentification only. No university endorsement implied.The Ads Are False and Misleading.As the legislative leaders, former Attorneys General, and as the Dean and a long-timefaculty person of the School of Law, we take issue with the false and misleadingallegations and insinuations in these advertisements.The Legislative Process Was Fair and Open.Senator Damon announced he would be filing a marriage bill on January 13, 2009. Fromthat point forward, thousands of Maine voters contacted their legislators to make theiropinions known. These opinions were expressed in a variety of forms: conversations inthe legislative districts; one-on-one or group meetings between constituents and theirelected representatives; constituent letters, phone calls, emails and postcards; and contactwith legislative staffers. In these nearly five months of deliberations, the simple fact isthat far more supporters of the bill came forward than opponents. For example, it hasbeen reported that Equality Maine sent the legislature 50,000 postcards from Mainevoters in favor of marriage equality.All legislative bills are filed and considered in the light of day and go through a publicprocess. Not only was the marriage bill the subject of direct public comment, this was anissue and process that received enormous media attention, with views on both sides of theissue widely reported throughout the state.Leadership made the decision to move the public hearing before the Joint Committee onthe Judiciary to the Augusta Civic Center to accommodate what was expected to be anoverflow crowd. Media reports confirm approximately 4,000 came to the hearing. TheCommittee organized the testimony so that each side was given alternating 30 minuteblocks, with a total of nearly 12 hours of live testimony. Those who wanted to speak did,and in addition, the Committee accepted written comments. Those written commentsfilled two compact discs that were available to all Committee members and legislators.
 
 3Nonetheless, it was clear to all of us that the public hearing drew many more supportersof marriage equality than opponents, an observation supported by the media inattendance.More importantly, we note that while individuals testified on both sides, many more of the bill’s proponents testified on behalf of organizations, such as the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Maine’s Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Maine Children’s Alliance, and the Portland and Bangor NAACPchapters.In terms of religious voices heard that day, Bishop Richard Malone testified for theRoman Catholic Diocese in opposition to the bill, as did pastors of many churchesscattered throughout Maine. Yet, the religious testimony was balanced with supporters of marriage equality including the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine Steven Lane,the Rev. David Gaewski, the Executive Minister of the Maine Conference of the UnitedChurch of Christ (accompanied by dozens of clergy), three rabbis, an American BaptistMinister, dozens of Unitarian Universalist ministers, and lay Catholics.At their best, legislators make informed judgments while consulting their constituentswho elected them to make critical decisions on behalf of Maine. The intensity of constituent contacts supporting marriage equality made a difference.In summary, we believe it is both cynical and disrespectful to turn the public debate anddiscussion on this law into a “special interests” campaign slogan. While we understandthe heartfelt opposition to marriage equality, we cannot believe that the parents from FortFairfield, Farmington, Biddeford and Yarmouth testifying about their gay and lesbianchildren, or two mother families testifying on behalf of themselves and their children, are“special interests.”The People’s Veto Process Is Working As Intended.As support for Senator Damon’s bill grew, some legislators began discussions aboutpassing the bill with a referendum provision attached. Other legislators intenselyopposed this effort, reasoning that they should take an up or down vote on the bill, andnot “pass the buck.” Rather than impose such a vote on Maine’s electorate, legislatorsalso knew full well – as does the Yes on 1 campaign - that the voters may use theconstitutionally available People’s Veto process to challenge a legislative measure on theballot. (
See
Me. Constitution, Art. IV, Pt. 3, § 17.) In fact, Representative Charles Priestwent on to say just that, a fact omitted from the radio ad. The fact is, there is a methodfor obtaining a referendum, and it begins with five voters taking it upon themselves tobegin the process. As a result, the Legislature rarely attaches a referendum provision toany legislation. There was no reason to treat this measure any differently. In the end,the proposed referendum amendments were easily defeated, as has been the commonpractice with other legislation.In summary, to suggest that the Legislature (or anyone else) “tried to prevent Mainersfrom voting” is false and misleading. Even as the Governor signed the law, he

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