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Note: This column appeared in the January 1998 issue of the Aroostook Democrat, the monthly newsletter of the Aroostook County Democratic Committee. Editor and publisher is Roger Roy of Caribou, Maine.
(31% of all registered voters) voted to repeal Maine's gay rights law.
The Upcoming Vote on Sexual Fantasies
and a few other political issues
By Jean Hay
January 3, 1998
The religious right in Maine would have you believe that the February 10 referendum vote is about the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians. It’s not.
The goal of the referendum supporters is the repeal of last year’s law adding sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law forbidding discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
But please notice that gays and lesbians are not the target of the new law (which has been forced into limbo until the referendum results are in).
The new law’s target is business people. Specifically, the law is targeted at those business people who use their own sexual fantasies as the basis for business decisions in the areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.
It is this behavior – of the business people – which the new legislation outlaws.
It will not be easy for businesspeople to violate this new law. It will take a concerted effort and a certain amount of mental agility. After all, unless the person standing before the businessman is actually involved in a sexual act right then and there, the businessman, to violate this law, must make several – shall we say – leaps of faith.
First the businessman must decide that the person before him matches the stereotypes of a gay or lesbian, and thus must be a gay or lesbian. Then the businessman must imagine – fantasize – that the person before him, being a stereotypical gay or lesbian, must therefore engage in sexual acts of which the businessperson disapproves.
But no law can ban sexual fantasies, and this one is no exception. To break this law, the businessperson must take a third step.
The business person, after taking steps one and two, must then deny employment, credit, housing or public accommodations to the person before him, based exclusively on what the business person fantasizes the purported gay or lesbian standing there must be doing in the privacy of his or her own home.
(If you are straight – or celibate – you are wrong to assume that this law has nothing to do with you. Notice that, under this law, it doesn’t matter whether or not you are gay, or whether you actually do any of the things that the businessperson fantasizes you doing. It only matters that the businessperson THINKS you are gay and are doing nasty things behind closed doors, and discriminates accordingly.)
The bottom line is that this new legislation outlaws discrimination based on the sexual fantasies of business people.
The religious right doesn’t like that bottom line, and wants you to repeal this law.
If you think it is OK for business people to discriminate against people they think might be gay -- even if that turns out to be you – then vote "yes" to repeal.
If, on the other hand, you think that some business person’s conjecture about whether you are straight or gay, or his fantasies about what you must be doing in the privacy of your own bedroom, should have no bearing on whether you get credit at a bank, can rent a house or a motel room, can get a meal in a restaurant or a job, then vote against this repeal effort on February 10.
And, if you are in the second category, don’t sit home and count on other people to keep this one on the books.
On a related note:
Unless the Bangor City Council acts quickly, if you live in one particular precinct in Bangor, you will be voting on this referendum question at the newly renamed William S. Cohen School, formerly the Garland Street School.
Unlike a feminist friend of mine who gagged at the idea of a Bangor school being named after the man who cast the swing vote that confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, I do not have a problem with Bangor naming a school after this prominent native son. I do, however, have a problem with naming a polling place after him – or after any sitting politician, including any current member of the President’s cabinet. The William S. Cohen ne Garland Street School, is a currently a designated polling place.
My concerns were summarily dismissed by school superintendent James Doughty, a long-time personal friend of Cohen’s who had initiated the idea of renaming the school. Cohen will never be on another ballot, he said. He’s no longer a politician. How could anyone infer anything political about Cohen’s name being over the doors of a polling place?
When I pointed out the obvious, that anyone holding the title of Secretary of Defense was indeed a political figure, Doughty abruptly changed tacks. He said the school board didn’t determine the polling places. If the Bangor City Council saw it as a problem, that body could just designate another polling place in the precinct, he said.
Just so you’ll know, this is the same Superintendent Doughty who refused a request for the Bangor High School Band to perform when President William Jefferson Clinton visited Bangor on Election Eve 1996. Doughty’s excuse was that he did not want Bangor High’s band members involved in a partisan political event. John Bapst High School, a private school located in Bangor, did not see a problem, and its band members played their hearts out for our Chief Executive.
Speaking of the 1996 election, I have just received word that Federal Elections Commission has dismissed the Republican complaint which had charged the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee with violating election laws by hiring a researcher to check Republican Senate candidate Susan Collins’ public record in Massachusetts.
A letter from the FEC was sent December 15, 1997 to Rick Tyler, Executive Director of the Maine Republican Party, informing him that the Commission had "exercised its prosecutorial discretion to take no action in the matter."
The certified letter, a copy of which turned up on my fax machine on December 19, continued: "This case was evaluated objectively relative to other matters on the Commission’s docket. In light of the information on the record, the relative significance of the case, and the amount of time that has elapsed, the Commission determined to close its file in this matter on December 15, 1997.’’ The letter, on FEC stationery, was signed by F. Andrew Turley, Supervisory Attorney, Central Enforcement Docket.
In October 1996, based on a report in the Bangor Daily News, the Maine Republican Party had complained to the FEC that, "In hiring a private investigator to snoop into the life of Joe Brennan’s Republican opponent, the national political party committee handling his campaign has made an unreported and illegal excessive contribution to Brennan’s campaign."
Brennan repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the DSCC’s actions, or of benefiting from any information gleaned from Collins’ public record in Massachusetts.
© Copyright 1998 by Jean Hay, Bangor, Maine. All Rights Reserved.