On August 19th, The Human Rights Campaign condemned the alleged illegal
actions by leaders of an anti-gay Miami-Dade County ballot initiative after
a key member of the campaign, and several underlings, were arrested and
charged with voter fraud.
"We are appalled by the irregularities and alleged illegal
activities engaged in by our opponents in their efforts to win at all
costs," said HRC's National Field Director Seth Kilbourn. "We knew they had
contempt for the truth, but we now know they also have contempt for the
Miami-Dade Christian Coalition chairman Anthony Verdugo was
arrested Friday and charged with one count of falsely swearing that he had
witnessed someone sign a petition to repeal sexual orientation from a 1998
ordinance. Additionally, a Miami-Dade notary public Ralph Patterson was
arrested on a charge of illegally notarizing his signature on a petition. A
17-year-old man was also arrested on a charge of falsely swearing to witness
someone sign a petition. A fourth arrest is expected on Tuesday, according
to the Miami Herald.
These headline-grabbing arrests are the latest in the highly
anticipated Sept. 10, 2002 ballot battle in Miami-Dade County, Fla. There,
the anti-gay group Take Back Miami-Dade has placed an amendment on the
ballot to delete sexual orientation from an anti-discrimination ordinance
passed in 1998 by the county. This human rights ordinance includes
protections for gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit and
This battle is important because Miami-Dade is the county where former
orange juice queen Anita Bryant helped repeal a similar ordinance in 1977
under the slogan "Save the Children." Bryant's mud-slinging campaign is
largely credited for giving birth to the modern anti-gay movement.
Similar to Bryant's earlier crusade, the opposition this time has
also resorted to a dirty tricks campaign. Aside from the arrests, it
distributed a flyer in African-American churches that disingenuously mislead
potential voters by saying that: "Martin Luther King Jr. would be outraged
if he knew homosexual extremists were abusing the civil rights movement to
get special rights based on their sexual behavior." The late King's wife,
Coretta Scott King, repudiated the misinformation through a spokesman saying
that, while her husband never publicly addressed the issue of homosexuality,
they did discuss it privately, and he told her he was concerned about the
discrimination suffered by gay men and lesbians.
Groups like the NAACP and Urban League are in favor of retaining the
ordinance banning discrimination. And other African-American community
leaders in Miami-Dade County also renounced the right-wing smear tactics.
"It's an affront to every American and particularly African
Americans to misappropriate the words and image of Dr. King to promote
intolerance and discrimination," said Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Fla., in a letter
obtained by HRC. "That is shameful, because Dr. King used his entire life to
bring people together and to prevent the majority from discriminating
against the minority."
HRC is helping support the Miami group Save DADE with staff,
volunteers and a direct cash contribution of $10,000. Additionally, Dyana
Mason, HRC's Southern regional field organizer, has spent a significant
amount of time in Florida assisting SAVE Dade in the development and
implementation of their extensive field plan. HRC Executive Director
Elizabeth Birch also spoke at a Washington-based house fundraiser
co-sponsored by HRC that raised $3,000.
In Tacoma, Wash., anti-gay groups have placed a question on the ballot that
would overturn a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual
orientation and gender identity. The city of Tacoma has been debating basic
rights for the GLBT community for over 15 years. Anti-gay forces were
successful in repealing the 1998 ordinance, by 314 votes, necessitating
passage of the present ordinance.
HRC has been working very closely with Tacoma United For Fairness
(TUFF) on messaging and strategy. HRC gave $5,000 to TUFF and HRC's Seattle
steering committee raised an additional $4,000 for the group. HRC has sent a
targeted mailing to its Washington members that have resulted in further
donations to the campaign. Western Field Organizer Dan Furmansky is also
working closely with TUFF to offer grassroots support and will travel to
Tacoma in early September with Kilbourn to meet with the campaign and
provide strategic guidance.
"We are actively engaged on many levels with our state and local partners to
defeat these threats to our liberty and equality," said HRC National Field
Director Seth Kilbourn.
"When this campaign ends in victory on November 5, TUFF will look back and
acknowledge that The Human Rights Campaign made the difference between a
legacy of bigotry and a future of warmth and prosperity," said TUFF Campaign
Manager Julie Anderson. "The HRC national office and the local HRC Steering
Committee have provided guidance, not directives, much-needed funds, TLC,
and an avalanche of resources. They were able to mobilize a large and nimble
network, bringing national clout to assist in a local campaign."
The Ypsilanti Campaign for Equality (YCFE) is working to defeat an
anti-gay ballot measure that attempts to change this Michigan city's
charter. If passed, this ballot measure would invalidate part of Ypsilanti's
Human Rights Ordinance that protects citizens from discrimination in several
categories, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and could
possibly invalidate the entire ordinance. The petition drive for the ballot
measure was funded entirely by Tom Monaghan, a conservative Catholic
philanthropist and former CEO of Dominos Pizza.
HRC's Northern Field Organizer Sally Green is working with the Ypsilanti
Campaign for Equality to defeat the ballot measure. Last year, HRC partnered
with the state PAC Michigan Equality on a voter file project to benefit the
three local campaigns driven by the anti-gay group the American Family
Association and all three campaigns for equality won.
"HRC was an invaluable partner in 2001, helping Michigan Equality
and local campaigns
achieve a clean sweep of victories," said Stephanie McLean, vice present of
Michigan Equality. "We look forward to working closely with them in support
of Ypsilanti's campaign, as we change the face of politics in Michigan."
In Massachusetts, a constitutional convention adjourned July 17
without the state legislature taking a vote on an anti-gay bill. The measure
would have placed on the ballot a question to amend the Massachusetts
Constitution to deny any benefits associated with marriage to unmarried
couples, including health insurance coverage, emergency medical leave,
hospital visitation, bereavement leave and survivor benefits. Had the
legislature approved the proposed amendment, the question would have been
set to appear on the ballot in November 2004. HRC worked to support the
coalition of organizations fighting the measure by providing technical and
strategic assistance, including mobilizing its members to get involved in
In Nevada, HRC recently awarded the group Equal Rights Nevada $5,000 to
fight a ballot initiative that asks voters if the state constitution should
be amended to say that only marriage "between a male and female" should be
recognized in the state. In 2000, the initiative, Question 2, passed by more
than 66 percent. Nevada's constitutional amendment process spans two
election cycles, which forces the question to appear on the 2002 ballot.
Meanwhile, Oregonians will not have to fight another assault on their
rights this year, as Lon Mabon and the Oregon Citizens Alliance have failed
to make the 2002 ballot with the Student Protection Act 2.
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