AUGUSTA — A Concerned Maine Families spokesman denied Tuesday that his group is calling for a boycott against businesses supporting the defeat of the “protected classes” referendum.
Lawrence Lockman, a CMF member from Sebois, acknowledged, however, that one could draw the inference of a boycott from his editorial that appeared in several Maine newspapers this month.
Lockman’s organization is the driving force behind the Nov. 7 referendum question that would exclude homosexuals and other groups from protection under state and local human rights laws. The initiative is sometimes referred to as “Question 1,” a reference to the proposal’s position on the statewide ballot. Efforts by CMF have been countered by the Maine Won’t Discriminate coalition, which put out the alarm Tuesday on the Lockman piece.
The editorial, which identified Lockman as a representative of Concerned Maine Families, assumed a harsh tone against businesses that have supported opponents of the referendum. It cited AT&T, Key Bank of Maine, the Blue Alliance Mutual Insurance Co., and Guy Gannett Communications among businesses which have made “substantial contributions” to the cause of Maine Won’t Discriminate.
“Voters who support the referendum may want to shop around for telephone, banking, insurance and news services from providers who have the good sense not to fund the hijacking of civil rights law by wealthy, special-interest pretenders,” Lockman wrote.
“We’re not calling for any kind of a boycott, but I guess it says what it says,” Lockman said Tuesday. “People who do business with those outfits and don’t want to support this political agenda might want to take their business elsewhere. I make those kind of decisions every day on things like that.”
Maine Won’t Discriminate charged that Concerned Maine Families had targeted Maine businesses for boycotts by lashing out at major employers and small businesses.
“Question 1 has hit a new low in Maine politics,” said Pat Peard, chair of MWD. “The backers of the referendum are not only misleading voters, but intimidating those who disagree with them. Mainers have a right to speak their minds without being singled out for threats.”
Lockman defended his critcism of businesses supporting Maine Won’t Discriminate, arguing that “corporate America” was simply pandering to an attractive market.
“They know that this gay and lesbian market is a very upscale market and they’re just going to follow the money,” he said. “They want to be on the right side of the dollar.”
The debate between both organizations has frequently been a source of confusion to Maine residents searching for clarity on the issue of “protected classes” of people. The referendum question on the November ballot asks: “Do you favor changes in Maine law limiting protected classifications in future state and local laws to race, color, sex, physical or mental disability, religion, age, ancestry, national origin, familial status and marital status, and repealing existing laws which expand these classifications as proposed by citizen petition?”
Only those classes of people identified in the question would be eligible for protection if the initiative is passed. The enactment of such a law would also void any existing state or local law, rule, regulation or ordinance inconsistent with the limited classes stipulated under the referendum.
Opponents of the CMF proposition maintain that protected classes would not only exclude homosexuals but also: Workers’ Compensation claimants, whistle-blowers, witnesses who testify before the Maine Human Rights Commission, smokers, nonsmokers, low-income housing recipients, public assistance recipients, hunters and others.