Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Maine Debate Impressions

Massachusetts was the monster under the bed last night for the anti-gay-rights debater. In a clear preview of what Mainers can expect before the November election, the two primary advocates on both sides of Question 1 stated, iterated and reiterated.

Sponsored by the University of Maine Student Government, the Webcast debate's key players were:
We haven't checked the papers yet, but listening to 90 minutes left us with:
  1. (Irrelevant) questions about whether Heath is sincere or just a huckster.
  2. Greater confidence that the anti folks' arguments are so lame and misleading that Question 1 is going down.
  3. Strong confirmation that the CCL will continue to pretend that a vote for anti-discrimination for gays will ensure same-sex marriage in the state.
O'Meara was the biggest surprise. We had not heard him. He was a savvy MWD choice, both because he is a PR and strategy professional, as well as regular Christian dad and former head of the state GOP.

Heath constantly avoided answering the written questions from the students, chosen by the moderator. Instead, he returned to illogical and unsupported themes.

We could not have been as patient and on-message as O'Meara. For example, Heath went repeatedly to the argue that Massachusetts' highest court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage because the commonwealth had sexual-orientation protection on the books. O'Meara was specific in how the SJC limited its decision to the constitution and not rights rules and regulations.

O'Meara also refused to play the game of debating same-sex marriage. MWD has been careful to avoid any confusion between anti-discrimination and marriage.

After Heath said that not only would gay marriage necessarily follow from gay rights, he added that it would "kick the props from under the institution of marriage...and it will collapse." O'Meara did not point out that 17% of marriages here since the implementation have been same sex and that traditional man-woman unions are doing quite well, thank you very much.

It did not seem to bother Heath at all to lie directly or to jump from specific to general to another specific claiming a cause and effect. Some lies were simple and he may have repeated them so often that he sort of believes them. For example, he repeated the lie that Lexington's mad dad was persecuted, arrested and forced to sleep in a jail because school officials would not discuss his polite requests about his kindergartener's diversity book. The truth is that he refused to leave a meeting with officials after he didn't get what he wanted and would not leave for several hours after police and others begged him too. Then he spent the night in jail by his own choice, rather than offer a $50 bail for trespassing.

Some of Heath's deceptions were more insidious. He repeated the CCL line that there is no anti-gay discrimination in Maine, therefore no sexual-orientation wording need to be in the law. O'Meara detailed specific examples from public hearings of exactly such cases. After a few iterations of this, Heath changed his words to say that there was "no widespread" discrimination. In other words, a little hatred, firing, and persecution is okay.

When he wasn't using Massachusetts as the bogeyman, he picked international oddments. For example, from Scandinavia and Canada, he mentioned laws that forbid free anti-gay hate speech. He said if Maine kept its gay-rights wording, that would happen there.

Heath started with a whimper and warmed. He claimed victimhood; O'Meara had worked for some of the states largest newspapers, and all the liberal-elitist media hated him and his cause. Of course he didn't seem to consider his views may be risible and odious, that legislators from both houses with the support of the governor passed this anti-discrimination law because the time has come, and that times in Maine have changed so that a solid majority of the state favors such fairness.

It was fully a half hour into the 90-minute debate that Heath pulled out the code phrases, such as gay agenda and lifestyle choice. He ended up doing the full sexual immorality charge repeatedly. To O'Meara's credit, he did not laugh out loud when Heath twice said that if gays stayed closeted, there would be no discrimination in the five areas of law – housing, employment, public accommodation, credit or education. Heath actually had the nerve to say that in the old days, gay Mainers would hide their orientation and things were fine.

Again and again, Heath returned to the scare that if gay rights remains on the books, this makes sexual-orientation a right. Thus, he could "guarantee" within days people would file suits and prepare bills legalizing same-sex marriage. O'Meara pointed out, also repeatedly, that Maine was a DoMA state, that the new law wording specifically said it could in no way be interpreted as altering marriage.

At his most extreme –– although only his words but not his tone or volume screamed irrationally –– Heath claimed that there were polygamists and polyamorists waiting in the wings. Again, despite Maine laws forbidding such unusual practices, Heath was willing to raise the fear of rampaging satyrs and nymphos.

At the end, this would have been an easy debate to score. O'Meara used reason, logic and fact. He won flat out.

However, Question 1 supporters are much more likely to vote viscerally. Whether Heath believes this tripe or not, he knows how to push the fear and hate buttons.

On the other hand, his concluding remarks included, "If I believed that this was about dsicrimination, I'd vote NO." Indeed.

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