Maine Votes to Repeal Law Protecting Gay RightsMaine becomes the first state to repeal a gay rights law that barred gays from discrimination in housing, employment, and credit.
Francis X. Quinn
Maine Votes to Repeal Law Protecting Gay Rights
By FRANCIS X. QUINN
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA. MA. Maine became the first state to vote to repeal a gay rights law, a move that both sides said should send a message around the nation.
Tuesdayâ€™s referendum brought out 31 percent of Maine's registered voters, well above the 25 percent state officials had predicted for a midwinter special election.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, 135,278 votes, or 52 percent, favored repeal, to 127.013 votes, or 48 percent, for retaining the gay-rights law.
"Certainly, the right will feel emboldened by this, but again, I think it will definitely be a wake-up call across the country for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," said Rebecca Isaacs, political for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
She and other gay rights supporters said the repeal would increase pressure for a federal law. Opponents said the federal government should learn a different lesson: Stay away from special protections for homosexuals.
Ten other states, and Washington, D.C., now have laws similar to Maine's, which would have barred discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit. The states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.
â€œ I think you're going to continue to see these issues pop up across the country because it seems a defining issue for liberalism going into the 21st century is granting special rights based on oneâ€™s sexual preference behind closed doors," said Randy Tate, executive director of Christian Coalition.
His group helped fund the repeal effort.
Gov. Angus King, an independent who supported the law and became its main media spokesman in a low-key campaign, indicated the fight was not yet over.
"I think it's unfortunate," he said. "But we'll move forward, I think this is an evolutionary process."
Maine lawmakers enacted a bill last spring adding sexual orientation to the protected classifications in Maine's 25-year-old human rights act. King signed it into law.
A successful veto drive, as provided for in the state constitution, blocked implementation of the new law. Repeal advocates led by conservative Christian groups collected more than 58,000 signatures to put the issue on state ballots.
In another ballot issue Tuesday, Oklahoma voters rejected 2-to-1 a proposal to legalize casino gambling at four sites. including two race tracks.
It was the second time a gambling proposition had gone down in the state recent years. A lottery proposal was defeated in 1994.
With all 2,193 precincts reporting, the â€œnoâ€ vote totaled 304,349, or 69 percent, compared with 138,024 â€“ 31 percent â€“ voting for the proposition.
â€œItâ€™s the grassroots of moral, conservative Oklahoma that turned out,â€ said state Rep. Forrest Claunch, chairman of Oklahomans Against Casinos.
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