The Human Rights Campaign Gears Up To Assist State And Local Groups In Fighting High-Stakes Ballot Measures Nationwide

The Human Rights Campaign on May 31st announced it is gearing up to
join forces with state and local groups across the nation to defeat divisive
anti-gay ballot measures sponsored by right-wing political extremist groups.
To help win these battles, HRC is offering both financial assistance and
human resources to the groups leading these battles in their home states,
says HRC.

"The Human Rights Campaign is committed to assisting state and local groups
in fighting for fairness and providing the support these groups need to
win," said HRC National Field Director Seth Kilbourn. "We have some major
battles ahead, and in order to beat back these well financed and well
organized anti-gay campaigns, all GLBT organizations-federal, state and
local-must work together."

The most intensely watched ballot battle will take place in
Miami-Dade County, Florida on Sept. 10, 2002. Here, the anti-gay group Take
Back Miami-Dade has teamed up with Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition to
gather enough signatures to place an amendment on the ballot to remove
sexual orientation from the county's anti-discrimination ordinance passed
in 1998. This human rights ordinance includes protections for gays and
lesbians in employment, housing, credit and accommodations.

This campaign has significant symbolic value because Miami-Dade is the
county where former singing orange juice queen Anita Bryant repealed a
similar ordinance in 1977 under the slogan "Save the Children." Bryant's
mean-spirited campaign is considered to be the spark that ignited the modern
anti-gay movement.

HRC is helping support Save DADE with staff, volunteers and a direct cash
contribution of $10,000. 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 its extensive field plan.

"We're happy to have HRC stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in this
fight," said Timothy Higdon, SAVE DADE'S campaign manager. "The outcome of
this election will affect the discourse for the lesbian and gay community
nationwide, as it did in 1977, for the next generation."

The Oregon Citizens Alliance, a group that has sponsored many anti-gay
ballot measures over the years, has proposed the "Student Protection Act
II," a ballot initiative that would threaten the funding of public schools
that discuss any positive messages about gay, lesbian or bisexual people.

The OCA has filed ballot language with the secretary of state's office, and
is in the process of collecting signatures. The state lobby group, Basic
Rights Oregon, along with other groups, including the Oregon Education
Association, is leading the way against the new initiative. HRC provided BRO
with $15,000 to help with early message development. In 2000, the OCA
proposed Measure 9, "The Student Protection Act," which failed with a 53
percent vote against the measure.

"This measure threatens the quality of life for students in school,
some of whom are the most vulnerable people in our community," said Roey
Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "The OCA has become
increasingly sophisticated in crafting these ballot measures. The money
from HRC will help us develop an effective message to counter this dangerous
measure."

In May 1998, Ypsilanti, Mich., voters turned down a right wing attempt to
change the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to exclude sexual orientation
by a majority of 56 percent. Anti-gay opponents have again gathered enough
signatures to put a referendum on the November 2002 ballot.

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 statewide group Michigan Equality on a project to identify GLBT
supportive voters in three Michigan communities facing ballot measures. The
gay-supportive campaigns won in all three communities. HRC is discussing
with Michigan Equality about how best to assist the Ypsilanti campaign this
year.

"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 Maine, the Christian Civic Association has until June 22 to
collect enough signatures to place on the 2003 ballot a statewide question
that would repeal the domestic partnership programs for government employees
at both the state and local levels. Earlier this year, the anti-gay group
failed to collect enough signatures to place the question on the 2002
ballot.

In the meantime, the CCA is collecting signatures to place on the
ballot a question that would repeal the domestic partnership law in Bangor,
Maine.

"We are seeing the Christian Civic Association, which is more organized
after their defeat of the pro-gay civil rights Question 6 in 2000, taking
their battle against equal rights to both the state and local level," said
Rick Galena, executive director of the Maine Lesbian and Gay Political
Alliance. "The challenge for us in our partnership with HRC is to rally our
supporters and allies to fight this battle against our community on all
fronts."

The City Council of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, voted 6-1 on April 15
to extend domestic partner benefits to city employees. It is the first city
in Ohio to offer such benefits, and opponents wasted no time gathering
signatures for a referendum to amend the city charter to prohibit same-sex
partners from receiving benefits. It now appears, however, that the anti-gay
group fell short of the necessary signatures, but they may file a lawsuit
against the city challenging the ruling.

Residents of Cleveland Heights are organizing a coalition, Heights
Families for Equality, to fight the measure. HRC will support the local
group with volunteer recruitment and training if the repeal makes it to the
ballot.

"We look forward to HRC's support for Heights Families for Equality.
This will be an important fight and we can use all the help we can get,"
said Mark Tumeo of Heights Families For Equality."

Citizens opposed to the new anti-discrimination law in Tacoma,
Wash., have pledged to gather the 4,000 signatures necessary to place it on
the November ballot for repeal. HRC is working closely with local activists
and, is prepared to send Dan Furmansky, HRC's western field organizer to the
city this summer to help the campaign defeat the referendum. Anti-gay forces
were successful in repealing the 1989 ordinance.

In Nevada, HRC recently sent the group Equal Rights Nevada a $5,000
contribution 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.

"We really appreciate HRC's support because we think it's crucial to
recognize the power that ballot initiatives have to set a political climate
in which even our most friendly elected officials and allies have their
hands tied," said Equal Rights Nevada Board Chair Liz Moore. "We will use
this money from HRC to further our efforts to talk to voters one-on-one,
identify fair-minded voters, make sure they turn out to vote, and later
mobilize them during legislative work."

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