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A national group that helped successfully campaigned to overturn Maine’s first same-sex marriage law in 2009 on Monday released the names of seven donors who gave $2 million to the campaign and whose identities had been kept secret during a four-year dispute with state election officials.
The National Organization for Marriage report shows that the seven donors, all affiliated in some way with a network of national conservative Christian groups, gave the money to NOM, which then funneled that money to Stand for Marriage Maine, the Maine-based political action committee that became the public face of the successful bid to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law.
The list of donors includes one person from Maine: Richard Kurtz of Cape Elizabeth, who donated $50,000 to NOM in 2009. He also is listed as giving $1,000 to the 2008 campaign to overturn California’s marriage equality law. He and his wife, Virginia, have donated to Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Republican Party.
Reached by phone Monday, Virginia Kurtz said neither she nor her husband wanted to comment.
The list also includes wealthy donors from other states, as well as the national Knights of Columbus organization.
Jonathan Wayne, the director of the ethics commission who led the investigation into NOM’s activity, said Monday that group’s disclosure was significant even if it comes years later than it should have.
“The outcome is important because it reinforces that if groups are coming to Maine to promote an initiative or referendum, they need to register with the commission and disclose where their political money is coming from,” he said.
Wayne added that court rulings supported the commission’s ruling that NOM violated state law in attempting conceal its activity and donors.
“There’s more and more legal challenges to these (disclosure) laws,” he said. “So the fact that these laws were challenged and received a clean bill of health from the federal courts is very significant to us.”
The release of the donor names comes three weeks after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court refused the organization’s request for a delay in complying with a state ethics board ruling that it must file a report identifying the sources of the $2 million that NOM gave to the referendum drive.
NOM argued last year that revealing the identity of its donors would subject them to personal attacks and harassment.
Chris Plante, NOM’s regional director, told the Press Herald last year that the effort to disclose donors “is a tactic of same-sex marriage advocates across the country to try to chill the free speech of individuals who would stand for marriage between one man and one woman. We find there’s a particular effort to attack and force retribution against those who stand in the public square.”
Public campaign finance records show that Richard and Virginia Kurtz have given to an array of Republican candidates and political action committees, including the Club for Growth and American Crossroads. They have also given to the Family Research Council, a national group that describes itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but is regarded among progressive groups and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as a hate group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Family Research Council’s “real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians,” making “false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science” with “the intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Besides political donations, little information is publicly accessible about Richard Kurtz. A digital records search shows that Kurtz is 81 years old and retired. He was once the president of Sentinel Corp., a real estate management company registered as a corporation in Massachusetts that dissolved in 1999. The couple also is associated with at least two charitable organizations, but none that has filed public forms with the Internal Revenue Service.
The largest donor to NOM in 2009 was Sean Fieler, president of the hedge fund Equinox Partners and the Kuroto Fund. Fieler has reportedly spent more than $4.6 million on state and federal political campaigns and super PACs since 2010. He also is involved in a new effort to fund anti-transgender rights nationally.
Fieler donated $1.25 million to NOM in 2009.
Other donors include John Templeton of Pennsylvania. Templeton, who gave $300,000 to NOM’s activity in Maine in 2009, is ranked No. 27 in the country in a list of top individual donors to federal candidates, political action committees and tax-exempt political groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Templeton, who is head of the Templeton Foundation, was the second largest donor to the ballot initiative that overturned California’s same-sex marriage law. He also has backed the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum, an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage.
Terrence Caster, a high profile San Diego businessman and prolific donor to tax exempt political groups, also gave $300,000 to NOM’s efforts in Maine.
The Knights of Columbus donated $140,000 to NOM to support the repeal of Maine’s nascent gay marriage law. The group, known as a Roman Catholic fraternal and service organization, has made significant donations to fight the legalization of gay marriage. Between 2005 and 2012, the Knights of Columbus spent $6.5 million on array of campaigns opposing same-sex marriage, according to a 2012 report by Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic groups supporting gay marriage.
Monday’s disclosure marks the end of a lengthy legal battle.
Last year, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices imposed a $50,250 fine on NOM because it failed to register as a ballot question committee or file campaign activity and donor disclosure reports.
In April, a Maine Superior Court ruling upheld the ethics commission decision to fine NOM and require the group to list its donors.
Wayne, the ethics commission director, indicated that NOM has paid its fine – a record amount – and filed as a ballot question committee, under protest.
In its ruling, the court wrote that NOM’s efforts to block donor disclosure had not been successful in either state or federal courts.
NOM gave more than $2 million to the $3 million referendum campaign to overturn the marriage equality law that the Legislature passed and Gov. John Baldacci signed. That law never took effect. While NOM was successful in blocking same-sex marriage in Maine in 2009, LGBT activists and a coalition of groups successfully legalized same-sex marriage in a 2012 statewide referendum.
Brian Brown, NOM’s executive director, was an operating officer of Stand for Marriage Maine, a Maine-based ballot question committee that registered with the state. The ethics commission members argued that Brown’s dual role allowed the organization to shield its donors and skirt Maine’s donor disclosure law.
The ethics investigation cited bank statements and campaign literature to show that the organization used its nonprofit status to draw donations earmarked for the Maine referendum – a violation of Maine election law.
NOM’s effort to conceal its activity was detailed in a lengthy investigation by the ethics commission. The resulting 37-page report showed that NOM supplied about two-thirds of the money for the 2009 and operated as something as a shadow campaign for Stand for Marriage Maine, a ballot committee that did register with the state. While Stand for Marriage Maine disclosed its donations, it reported contributions from NOM without identifying the organization’s donors. The ethics commission later ruled that NOM should have registered as a ballot committee and reported its donations, the names of its officers and key decision-makers.
“The staff views NOM’s failure to register and file financial reports as a significant violation of law,” the report said. “Maine people deserve to know who is funding political campaigns to influence their vote.”
Wayne, who led the investigation into NOM’s activities during the 2009 referendum, said in an email that the “decision and litigation have been a long haul, but they have had the effect of strengthening Maine’s campaign finance laws.”
The $50,250 fine against NOM was nearly twice the largest previous ethics penalty against a state political action committee. In 2011, the commission fined the Republican State Leadership Committee $26,000 for violating the state’s campaign disclosure law.
Reaction to the disclosure by the groups involved in the 2009 campaign was relatively subdued, revealing a drastically different political climate for same sex marriage and new priorities for LGBT advocates and opponents.
Fred Karger, a political consultant and gay rights activist from California, filed the original complaint against NOM in 2009.
“Yay (NOM) finally releases names of donors from 2009 Maine election,” Karger tweeted Monday. He later described NOMs officers as “crooks and liars guilty of money laundering.”
In 2009, NOM made overturning Maine’s gay marriage law a priority, sending a stream of action alerts to donors.
“We have a major fight on our hands in Maine and throughout our nation to protect God’s vision of marriage,” said one action alert. “With supporters like you, we are confident that we will be victorious.”
The ratification of Maine’s same-sex marriage law in 2012 via voter referendum came amid a rapid shift in public attitude. Shortly after the 2012 campaign, several law courts overturned various state bans on same-sex marriage.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry.
Steve Mistler – Portland Prees Herald
A documentary about kids with same-sex parents won’t be screened at a Sydney School after parents complained.
Adrian Piccoli, the New South Wales education minister, claims he “directed” Burwood Girls High School to move a screening of Gayby Baby so that it didn’t happen during regular school hours. He told 2GB Radio, “During school hours we expect students to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters… This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that decision.”
The film was going to be screened as part of Wear It Purple Day, a national initiative to show support for the LGBTQ community. A disparaging piece by Piers Akerman in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph further stoked the controversy:
“Children in same-sex couple families are one in a thousand of all children in couple families (0.1 percent). Statistically, you are not in a “normal” family, no matter how many LGBTIQ-friendly docos you may be forced to watch by politically-driven school principals.”
Directed by Maya Newell, Gayby Baby sheds light on the lives of four children with gay parents. Newell, an alumni of the school, told Guardian Australia that the situation is “quite upsetting and disappointing.”
“Once again on the front page of the newspaper we’ve got all sorts of messaging going out to families and kids saying, ‘You know what, your family isn’t good enough, your parents aren’t good enough.’ The film is so innocent. It’s actually much more about four kids who are traversing oncoming puberty, who are dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up. The fact they have gay parents is really minor.”
The federal Labor senator Penny Wong lamented the backlash, too.
“How sad that a film about real kids and their families is attacked,” she wrote on Twitter. “So quick to bully, so unwilling to listen.”
The hate group Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) has just launched their “Campaign for Houston,” complete with a new website and an anti-gay radio advertisement, in which a female narrator claims:
“No men in women’s bathrooms. Let me tell you why. One day, I hope to be pregnant and deliver my beautiful baby right here in Houston, but I’m concerned because the city of Houston is proposing an ordinance that would allow men to use the women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. We are being told the ordinance will prevent discrimination against pregnant women. That makes absolutely no sense. There are already federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination against pregnant women, but this ordinance will allow men to freely go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. That is filthy, that is disgusting and that is unsafe. Join me and other women in Houston as we vote ‘No’ on Mayor Parker’s bathroom ordnance. And again, let me make this very clear, on behalf of all moms, sisters and daughters, no men in women’s bathrooms.”
The long-winded landing page for CampaignForHoustom.com states:
Mayor Parker’s ordinance is built on deception. It is not about protecting the rights of women, racial minorities, the disabled, elderly or military personnel. There are already important laws on the federal, state and local levels that protect such individuals from discrimination for employment, housing and access to public accommodations. The ordinance’s naming of these groups is a ruse in an attempt to hide the ordinance’s real purpose, which is to make “sexual orientation” and “gender identification” two new protected classes. …
Campaign for Houston is made up of parents and family members who do not want their daughters, sisters or mothers forced to share restrooms in public facilities with gender-confused men, who – under this ordinance – can all themselves “women” on a whim and use women’s restrooms whenever they wish. This “bathroom ordinance” therefore is an attempt to re-structure society to fit a societal vision we simply do not share or can support.
The ordinance also limits free speech and religious expression in unprecedented ways so as to not “offend” these two new “protected” groups, both of which are defined by their behaviors – not by characteristics given to them at birth.
Missouri teen Landon Patterson is making history as the first transgender person to be in the running to be her school’s Homecoming Queen – and is probably the first in her state as well.
(Note to readers: Landon is Patterson’s birth name but she remains comfortable using that name for the present time.)
Patterson revealed her true gender to her fellow Oak Park High School students in a YouTube video in May that has been watched by nearly ten thousand people.
She had previously presented to her peers as a gay male, so this was a second coming out for her.
She told Fox 4 News that she had been worried about how her peers would respond but to her surprise the reaction had been great.
‘It meant the world to me,’ she said.
However she never expected what her fellow students would do next.
A group of her school peers surprised her with some big news in the middle of the night recently – revealing they had nominated her to be this year’s Homecoming Queen.
‘People I never thought would vote for me did, congratulating me. I was so happy, it just made me feel like a normal girl,’ Patterson told Fox 4.
‘I just want everyone to know it’s okay to be you.’
School friend Josie Ballard told Fox 4 she wanted Patterson to know she was welcomed by her peers at school.
‘I wanted to support her. One-hundred percent,’ she said.
Patterson is one of six other girls competing for the title and she will find out on 12 September if she is to be crowned Homecoming Queen.
To GSN’s knowledge only one American transgender teenager has previously been nominated or elected Homecoming Queen – Cassidy Lynn Campbell of Marina High School in California.
Campbell probably became the first transgender American Homecoming Queen when she was chosen in Fall of 2013 – though she says being targeted by online bullies ruined the experience for her.
Homecoming is the traditional welcoming back of students in American schools, colleges and high schools and usually occurs during Autumn or Fall and typically includes activities such as dances and sporting events ad should not be confused with Prom celebrations which also include the election of a queen and king.
Andrew Potts – Gay Star News
A student is suing the Chinese Ministry of Education – because textbooks in her university refer to homosexuality as a disorder.
Chen Qiuyan, a 20-year-old student at a university in southern Guangdong province, filed legal action this month over books that suggest homosexuality is a condition that can be cured by electroshock therapy.
She filed the lawsuit under an alias – but subsequently spoke to the New York Times about her struggles being gay in China.
Despite the Chinese Psychiatric Association declassifying homosexuality as a mental illness back in 2001, a psychology textbook published in 2013 told her: “Sexual orientation disorder is a sexual psychological disorder that involves being sexually attracted to abnormal objects. It includes pedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and homosexuality.”
The student said: “I thought textbooks must be authoritative,… after reading them, I was terrified. I was even more afraid to admit that I’m gay.
“Homosexuals are already under great pressure. Additional stigma from textbooks will cause direct harm. The ministry should bear the duty to monitor and supervise such content.
“Speaking from my personal experience, these textbooks would definitely upset gay students,” she said. “And I later learned that gay people across the country have been hurt by this kind of textbook.”
After she complained about the books to the Ministry of Education and recieved no response, this month Ms Chen filed a case with the Beijing No 1 Intermediate Court, which was accepted.
The Ministry of Education declined to comment on the case.
However, Ms Chen’s lawyer Wang Zhenyu is hopeful that the case could start discussion in the country, where gay rights are still taboo.
He said: “It will push the government to adhere to the regulations on open access to information and to exercise proper oversight over textbooks.
“What’s more, it will spark discussions about the discrimination homosexuals still face.”
Nick Duffy – Pink News