Writing on the wall

“This is the second time in as many weeks that anti-gay ballot initiatives have been rejected because of fraudulent signatures. First in Illinois and now in Cincinnati, those attempting to push discrimination can’t honestly get the signatures they need. The writing is on the wall, and the message is that gay and lesbian Americans are full citizens and entitled to the same legal rights as everyone else.”

– People for the American Way President Ralph G. Neas

Anti-gay leader Phil Burress and his group “Equal Rights not Special Rights” (get it?) has been trying to reverse the resounding 2004 victory for fairness and equality in Cincinnati documented in the film “A Blinding Flash of the Obvious.” In the 2004 election, voters in Cincinnati not only rescinded their discriminatory city ordinance, but represented the only region of Ohio to reject that state’s anti-marriage equality amendment.

After collecting just the bare minimum of signatures to put his ugly referendum back on the ballot in 2006, Burress conceded that more than 1,300 of those signatures were fraudulent. The group withdrew its petition to place the referendum on the November 7, or any future ballot.

Meanwhile, in Illinois: The Chicago Tribune blog was reporting on the lackluster response to putting an anti-marriage equality amendment on the ballot back in April:

[The Illinois Family Institute] appeared to be having difficulty getting the 283,000 voter signatures they’ll need to bring the question in Illinois this November. The Glen Ellyn-based organization originally set an April 20 deadline for volunteers to send in petitions (they must be filed with the State Board of Elections by May 8), but recently pushed that deadline back 10 days; it also cancelled a large rally against gay marriage planned in Broadview.

“Their campaign of hate didn’t take off,” said Liberation Network Spokesman Bob Schwartz.

Not so fast, said IFI project director Dave Smith. Calling the gays’ celebration “premature, at best,” Smith said the petition drive was extended simply to accommodate thousands of people who want to participate, and that his group canceled the Broadview rally simply because “it wasn’t the best use of our time.”

Smith declined to say how many signatures the IFI has collected so far, but said he has “no doubt” they will get enough.

Not so fast, Sparky. From Planet Out:

The signatures were delivered in May to the the state Board of Elections in Springfield. Since then, the FAIR Illinois Committee, which consists of Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal, PFLAG, Gay Liberation Network and others, have used volunteers to double-check all 330,000-plus signatures.

“This is petition checking, not a definitive ruling, but it confirms what we found in that (Protect Marriage Illinois) are nowhere near the number of valid signatures they need,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of Illinois’ Gay Liberation Network. “They needed an 82 percent success rate, and in some areas in the state we found only 20 or even 10 percent of their signatures to be valid.”

Thayer said that the finding signifies a watershed moment in which the public is beginning to tire of ballot measures prohibiting same-sex marriage…

…The apparent failure of the ballot effort indicates that anti-marriage efforts are losing steam nationwide and never had much traction in Illinois, said Rick Garcia, executive director of Equality Illinois.

“Not only is this force anti-marriage, they also supported rabidly antigay candidates for statewide offices, they fought the state nondiscrimination bill and tried to stop domestic partner benefits for state employees,” Garcia said. “And the good news is, they failed in all of their efforts.”

State elections officials voted August 11 to keep the referendum off the November ballot, saying supporters failed to gather enough valid signatures. The Alliance Defense Fund is appealing to a federal court to intervene (hoping, we imagine, for an activist judge).

In Wisconsin, polling shows the anti-marriage equality amendment at a dead heat. In South Dakota, their amendment is losing, 49% to 41%.

In Virginia, polling shows that the trend is the same, with 54% either opposed or undecided. Do not doubt for a minute that we can win.


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