Monday, August 17, 2009

Maine Becomes Marriage Equality Ground Zero As Campaign Funds and Accusations Increase

This November Maine is considered ground zero for the marriage equality struggle since its residents will be the first in the nation to vote on same-sex marriage since Proposition 8. With the vote only a few months away, the campaigns on both sides of the issue are kicking into high gear as not only more money flows, but accusations as well.

On Friday, Equality California (EQCA) launched a fundraising drive in which it will match donations to the NO on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign up to $25,000.

The Human Rights Campaign, gave $50,000 to NO on 1, on top of $25,000 it gave earlier, totaling to $75,000. HRC has committed to donating yet another $50,000 soon, resulting in $125,000 in total donations.

These "outsider" donations angered Stand for Marriage Maine, the anti-marriage equality campaign orchestrating the "people's veto."

"Stand for Marriage Maine's (SFMM) opposition has constructed a glass house, claiming their campaign is being orchestrated by Mainers, not special interest groups from away," the campaign said. "The Equality California announcement would seem to roll a boulder right through that glass house."

The popular Maine newspaper, the Kennebec Journal, pointed out the hypocrisy in SFMM's statement. In talking to Mark Sullivan, spokesman for NO on 1, it reported, "Sullivan noted that Stand for Marriage Maine had already received more than $200,000 from out-of-state groups, according to campaign finance reports filed last month."

One of those groups happens to be the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), well-known for its anti-marriage equality stance and responsible for the widely mocked "Gathering Storm" ad. They donated over $100,000.

This didn't escape the notice of Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, whose mission has to been to investigate the role of the Mormon Church behind Proposition 8. It has claimed that NOM is a front for the church.

Karger sent a letter Maine election officials, and in a press release titled "Warning of Money Laundering by National Organization for Marriage (NOM) & Others," he states:
The organization trying to overturn Maine’s same-sex marriage law, Stand for Marriage PAC recently turned in 100,000 signatures to place the question on the November ballot. These gay marriage foes hope to repeal LD 1020 -- the law passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor allowing same-sex marriage in Maine.

Of the $343,689.50 raised to pay the Brighton, Michigan based National Petition Management, Inc. to collect the signatures, only $400, or a mere .001 of that total came from individuals. The remaining $343,289.50 was given by various religious organizations and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) gave nearly half of that total, $160,000. The remainder came from Catholic organizations ($150,000) and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family ($31,000).“It sure looks like they are trying to hide the donors in their latest effort to strip away marriage equality,” said Fred Karger. “ There is no way these organizations like NOM and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland had all this money sitting in their treasuries (except for possibly Focus on the Family). They went out and raised it expressly for this campaign. It’s very expensive to hire these signature gathering firms to collect 100,000 signatures in a short period of time.”
Read the letter to Maine's election officials.

"We certainly don't take much of it very seriously," Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine's executive committee, told the Kennebec Journal in regards to Californians Against Hate's accusations. "We are frustrated at the fact that it's yet one more distraction."

Mutty went on to say that he sees Karger's actions as just a way of blurring the issues on marriage equality.

Election officials have taken the letter as a request for an investigation, and the state's attorney general's spokesperson indicated assistance would be given to the ethics committee if an investigation is warranted.

Find out how you can get more involved in protecting marriage equality in Maine, no matter where you live, at the NO on 1 campaign website.

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