Anti-Gay Groups Infighting Over Messaging In Maine Marriage Campaign
April 27, 2012 2:42 pm ET by Carlos Maza
The fight over same-sex marriage in Maine will head to the ballot box in November, but a different kind of battle is already being waged between the state’s most prominent anti-gay groups.
In March, anti-gay activists Mike Heath and Paul Madore launched the “No Special Rights PAC,” promising to “take off the gloves” in the fight against marriage equality. From the outset, Heath and Madore strived to differentiate themselves from traditional “pro-family” groups, criticizing groups like National Organization for Marriage (NOM) for trying to “sugarcoat the message” against same-sex marriage by downplaying “the evil essence of homosexuality.” As Heath wrote in a March 16 blog post:
In 2009 national evangelical groups came together under the banner of the "National Organization for Marriage" with Catholics and Mormons. They raised and spent more money in that one campaign than we were able to raise in four previous campaigns on "gay rights" combined. Even with all that we barely won.
Their message purposely downplayed the evil essence of homosexuality and sodomy. They tried to sugarcoat the message. It barely worked then. It isn't going to work this time. [emphasis added]
This week, however, NOM joined with Maine’s Christian Civic League to launch Protect Marriage Maine, a separate effort to defeat the pro-equality referendum in November. In an April 23 press release, NOM president Brian Brown suggested that he would distance his group from the No Special Rights PAC, saying:
“Our campaign will be about the importance of marriage and the consequences to society if marriage is redefined,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. “We reject attempts to make this campaign about the morality of homosexuality. The campaign is about marriage, and we look forward to educating voters about the importance of maintaining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” [emphasis added]
It wasn’t long before No Special Rights PAC fired back at Protect Marriage Maine alleged “power grab.” According to an April 24 press release:
"They're a little late," said Paul Madore, co-chair of the No Special Rights PAC. "We got started years ago and haven't heard boo from them."
Heath and Madore are not surprised by this power grab by the monied interests in the pro family movement. They expected it, and will not allow it to deter them in their effort to win this campaign.
The rift between Maine’s anti-gay groups actually goes all the way back to the 2009 battle to repeal Maine’s marriage equality law, when “Stand for Marriage Maine” decided to distance itself from Heath and Madore’s extreme rhetoric. Although Maine’s marriage equality was eventually repealed, Heath stated that he was “horrified” by Stand for Marriage Maine’s relatively tame messaging strategy.
In Washington state, the NOM-headed anti-gay group seems to have set aside its differences with some of the state’s more extreme anti-gay elements in the fight to repeal marriage equality. It remains to be seen if a similar alliance will form in Maine or if the battle over anti-gay messaging strategy turns into an all-out war by November.