The voters of Maine dealt a setback to the homosexual rights movement in February, repealing a state law granting civil rights status to homosexuals.
Though official results were not available, the Bangor (Maine) Daily News reported the referendum succeeded by a margin of about 52 to 48 percent, according to The Washington Post. The referendum was taken on a law enacted last spring.
The vote marked the second time in four months supporters of homosexual rights have lost in a statewide initiative. In November, voters in Washington defeated a homosexual rights initiative by 60 to 40 percent.
Some opponents of homosexual rights said the two statewide results show the tide may be turning against what has appeared in recent years to be an unabated advance by the homosexual movement.
"It's a huge, huge victory," said Peter LaBarbera, an analyst for the Washington-based Family Research Council. "I think people are waking up, and they are seeing that it can be beaten. It just goes to show you that homosexual triumphs are not inevitable. I think this is something that can give hope to the rest of the nation."
Mike Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, told The Washington Times, "Until now, it has been looking as if homosexual rights were sweeping the nation. My sense is we are at a turning point. …"
LaBarbera, who publishes a watchdog publication called the Lambda Report on Homosexuality, said the vote means New England has one state without a homosexual rights law. The other northeastern states — Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire — have laws classifying "sexual orientation" as a protected status in such areas as employment and housing.
The other states with homosexual rights laws are California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. The District of Columbia also has such a law.
Opponents of homosexual rights can win such elections if they work hard and communicate the proper information to voters, LaBarbera said. "People just do not think of homosexuality as a normal civil rights issue," he said.
Homosexuality is not an unchangeable trait like race and gender, other categories given civil rights protection, say opponents of homosexual rights.
The Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest homosexual political organization, blamed the Maine results partly on a low voter turnout, even though the percentage voting, about 30 percent, was high for a single-issue election.
The experience in Maine demonstrates why there is a need for "a single, uniform federal law to protect gay people against discrimination, particularly in employment," said Elizabeth Birch, HRC's executive director, in a written statement. "That's why we are continuing to press Congress" for passage of the Employment Non-discrimination Act, she said.
ENDA failed by only one vote in the Senate in 1996 but has yet to be voted on in this Congress. Even if ENDA were to pass the Senate, its chance for passage in the House of Representatives appears extremely doubtful.
Circuit Court Opposes Supreme Court, Upholds Anti-Gay Rights Ordinance
A federal appeals court in October upheld its previous decision supporting a Cincinnati voter initiative barring mention of sexual orientation in the city's human rights ordinance.
A representative of a gay rights group called the ruling "a renegade decision" because the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a similar Colorado measure.
The high court had ordered the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to review its May 1995 ruling. The same panel of judges opted to sustain their initial ruling.
"It's a big win for us," said Karl Kadon III, a Cincinnati assistant city solicitor. "The whole case is about the right of people to decide what their government can do. It's the notion of American democracy; everything else is wrapping around it."
But Patricia Logue, a Chicago-based lawyer for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the decision is not defensible, the Associated Press reported.
"This is a renegade decision approving a clone of the Colorado ballot measure thrown out by the Supreme Court," she said.
In 1991, Cincinnati's city council passed an equal employment law that included sexual orientation along with race, color, age, and religion as anti-discrimination classifications. In 1992, the council enacted a human rights ordinance that included similar protections for public accommodations and public housing. Voters approved a charter amendment in 1993 forbidding the council from passing any measure that granted protections based on sexual orientation.
In 1994, U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled the amendment violated equal-protection and free-speech rights of gays and was unconstitutionally vague. The 6th Circuit Court reversed the decision the following year, saying homosexuals were a group that could not be identified and, therefore, could not be entitled to specific legal protection.
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the similar Colorado amendment in May 1996 and later ordered the 6th Circuit to reconsider its decision.
Religious News Service