Mainers United Fact Check: Protect Marriage Maine, “Donald Mendell” Ad, Built on False Premise
In a press release, Mainers United took on the first ad released by the largest of the three marriage equality opposing groups this year:
- PORTLAND – Protect Marriage Maine makes a number of baseless and misleading claims in a new ad featuring a school guidance counselor, Donald Mendell, who also appeared as a spokesperson during the 2009 campaign to repeal the freedom to marry.
“The issues raised in this ad have nothing to do with allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license,” said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. “People have strong opinions on both sides of marriage. Allowing same-sex couples to marry won’t change people’s freedom to speak out and say what they believe. Question 1 is about allowing our friends, co-workers and neighbors to have the freedom to marry the person they love.”
“If Question 1 passes, redefining marriage will have consequences for Mainers. … When gay marriage has been passed elsewhere, people have been fired, sued, fined and punished.”
The premise of the ad is flawed and misleading. Allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license has not caused an increase in lawsuits, firings or other negative consequences in any state where marriage has been made legal.
A Seattle Times national investigation “failed to turn up any evidence that same-sex marriage had produced a rash of suits involving businesspeople. We also checked with human rights commissions in four of the six states where marriage is legal; the commissions said there was not an increase in discrimination findings or suits involving same sex marriage.”
In Washington, a group of law professors wrote a letter to Governor Gregoire citing only six cases over nine years in the United States where religious organizations or groups with a particular religious belief against same-same marriage have been pulled into litigation over the issue. Only one involved a business refusing service to a same-sex couple (in New Mexico, a state that does not permit marriage for same-sex couples but does ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation along with race, religion, sex, national origin, etc.).
A recent Maine Today Media “Truth Test” echoed those findings, stating: “We checked with human rights commissions in New Hampshire and Vermont, where same-sex marriage is allowed. Connecticut’s didn’t return a message and data was mostly unavailable by press time in Iowa and Massachusetts. There were no gay-marriage related claims against religious organizations in any of the states.”
State anti-discrimination laws, such as the one supported by Maine voters in 2005, set the rules governing claims of discrimination. Those rules will not change in Maine, regardless of the vote on Question 1 in November and are not related to marriage.
“I was a school counselor for over 20 years, and once nominated teacher of the year. Yet when I supported traditional marriage, they tried to get me fired. They went after my state license, claiming that supporting marriage as between one man and one woman was discriminatory.”
This baseless complaint has nothing to do with the marriage initiative voters will face this November. At the time colleagues of Mr. Mendell’s filed work-related complaints against him in 2009, Maine did not allow same-sex couples to marry. He was working as a school guidance counselor and was licensed as a social worker, and ultimately the complaints against him were dropped without him facing any repercussions.
The complaint was filed with the Office of Licensing and Registration, Board of Social Work Licensure, during the final weeks of the People’s Veto campaign. But to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license caused the complaint is inaccurate and misleading.
The complaint was the result of activities by Mr. Mendell that some of his colleagues (not pro-marriage campaign operatives or activists) believed would compromise the ability of students to seek appropriate support from a guidance counselor in their school.
In addition, the complaint was based not on Maine’s anti-discrimination law, which was affirmed by voters in 2005, but instead on an interpretation of National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics.
According to the complaints, they were prompted by concern that students, and particularly LGBT students, would be afraid to approach Mr. Mendell in his position as a school guidance counselor and social worker for support.
The complaints against Mr. Mendell were dismissed by the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation in the Baldacci administration on First Amendment grounds.
Mr. Mendell’s right to participate publicly in a political campaign were confirmed by a Democratic administration that held a view contrary to the one expressed by Mr. Mendell.
There was no lawsuit filed in relation to this complaint or Mr. Mendell’s activities as a spokesperson and advocate for the repeal of allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license. In essence, the system worked.
Via Protect Maine Marriage, run by the oh-so very divorced Bob Emrich, who loves to spout off about “traditional divorce”, er, marriage:
(Photo: Silent Puppet, er, Partner Bob Emrich watches as SCOTUS-stymied NOM president Brian Brown runs the marriage opposition show in Maine- same as they did in 2009 and in all other state equality battles throughout the country.)
“We are beginning our campaign with two ads that will run in rotation – “The Good of Marriage” and “Don Mendell–Consequences.” Taken together, they show how marriage as the union of one man and one woman has served Maine well for hundreds of years, and if Question One passes there will be profound consequences for those who express support for traditional marriage.”
Here is the Mendell ad; see for yourself.