DATE: 3/08/2005 01:35:00 PM
Baldacci's Political Savvy - Maine Governor John Baldacci is sending a gay rights bill to the legislature. Unlike previous bills, though, this one will not go before the voters for approval by referendum. Maine voters have twice rejected similar bills. So why is the governor doing this now?
Quite simply, because his political opponents are at the weakest they've ever been. When these past bills were brought before the state, the Maine Christian Civic League was still a force to respect. The League was able to marshall opposition to the previous gay rights bills and get voters to the polls when the time came. Thanks to the loose lips of Michael Heath and the refusal of the MCCL's board to fire the executive director, the organization has lost a great deal of clout - both in the legislature and with the churches that once provided a strong base of support.
Baldacci showed a great deal of political smarts in waiting for the League to self-destruct before making his move to pass a gay rights bill. Heath and his dwindling supporters are left with one issue - opposition to what they call the "homosexual lobby." Like Democrats during last year's election, the League has become an oppositional movement rather than an idea-generating one. As Zell Miller said about John Kerry, "against, against, against." If the League wants to survive, it will come up with alternative policy proposals on a variety of issues that concern Christians instead of focusing on the one issue that incites more emotion than good political sense.