Interview with Mark Sullivan (10/5/09)
Mark Sullivan is the spokesman for Protect Maine Equality, the official organization opposing the Maine Same-Sex Marriage People's Veto, Question 1 (2009) which is scheduled to appear on the November 3, 2009 ballot.
1. After the state legislature approved "An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom," also known as LD 1020, and Gov. John Baldacci signed the legislation into law, was their anticipation of a people's veto?
Oh gosh yes! That’s another reason why I think a lot of the arguments that the other side are making kind of fall flat in Maine. Because, the issue of equality has been dealt with over and over again in the state of Maine for the last 20 years, this is at least the fourth statewide vote that we’ve had on equality issues. A lot of the issues that are being raised have been raised before. Quite frankly, they have been raised before and have been proven to be false and Maine people know that. But clearly the folks involved in this whole overall initiative anticipated it from the outset. We are talking about an effort that goes back to almost 3 years ago in terms of developing a strategy and building the support of the momentum toward first getting the legislation passed in the Maine Legislature, getting the governor’s signature but also fully anticipating that because Maine has this People’s Veto process that it would eventually go to a vote and anticipating that we would have a campaign like this. Now that doesn’t mean that, once the legislation was signed, we didn’t have to assemble a team but we certainly hit the ground running in that regard. We have a tremendous grassroots effort underway in this state. Something that I think is unprecedented in the state’s history in terms of the number of people who are out there doing volunteer work on the ground.
2. According to the latest polls, it looks like it's going to be a close call. What is your read on Maine voters right now?
Polls are what they are. I think the major message to be taken from the polls that have been published is that this is going to be a very, very close race, which is what we anticipated all along. A lot of people already made up their minds and we are basically battling over a small group that haven’t made up their mind yet. That's why its very important for us to target our message as we have tried to do all along, keeping on a very positive level talking about the issues that we think are at stake and I think, most people agree, are at stake which is fairness, justice and equality for all people.
3. What are some of the biggest misconceptions Mainers are facing regarding Question 1?
I give the, particularly Maine voters, credit for being able to filter through the distractions that are thrown at them and focus on what is at stake and for them I think it really boils down to what's near and dear to them. What are their main values? What they are hearing from their friends, their relatives, their neighbors, people at work, other people in the community? And I think that they are hearing our message: basically adherence to traditional Maine values. Here in Maine we pretty much have a philosophy of "live and let live." We support our neighbors but we don’t interfere in their business. And we pretty much believe that our neighbors should be treated as we are. That everybody should be treated the same under the law and that’s what this in our judgment is what the campaign is all about.
4. The September television ads seem to have drawn a lot of questions about validity. In particular, whether the legislation approved by the governor and the legislature will impact education or school curriculum. Will it impact education?
It’s unfortunate that this is being used as a distraction from what is really at stake. It’s a red herring being thrown out there. The legislation that the legislature passed and the governor signed has nothing to do with education, nothing to do with curriculum. In Maine, people know that education policy is something that is centered at the local level. It’s done by local school boards which are comprised overwhelmingly by parents. So this idea that parents are not involved and will be kept out of the process is absurd on its face to most Maine people. But they also recognize that this is not what they are voting on on November 3. To raise this issue is to try to turn attention away from what is really at stake and to ignore what is really at stake, which is the idea of justice and fairness for everyone. Because they can’t make that case, you try to find something that is inflammatory and it takes people’s attention from what is really at stake.
5. All eyes appear to be on Maine right now, especially with Washington voting on a similar issue in November and California's effort to repeal Proposition 8 in 2010. Is this part of the focus of the campaign?
Well, we have a campaign that is focused on Maine. And we certainly welcome the attention and the support that we are getting outside of the state, it’s hugely valuable to us. But when push comes to shove, our campaign is about Maine, it’s about Maine people and its about getting our message out there and that’s what we are focused on.
6. What is key to the campaign right now?
Of course turn out and get out to vote is vital to the effort. So by having people take advantage of voting early we know that their vote has been cast and we no longer have to work to get them to the polls. That allows us to focus our efforts on the people that haven’t gone to the polls yet and that makes that more an efficient and effective process. A huge part of this campaign is that people will have heard from someone about this campaign, either they’ll get a phone call or receive a piece of mail or see an advertisement or a friend or a neighbor or a relative will talk to them about it. That’s going to be a huge part of getting out of the margin we need to have victory on November 3rd.
7. Is there a plan of action if Question 1 is approved?
We haven’t really talked about that. We are focused on this. But I think you can see from history that we don’t give up. We have fought this fight and we are in it for the long haul.
8. How will the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices vote on October 1 to investigate donations made to Stand for Marriage Maine, supporters of Question 1, affect the overall campaign?
Firstly, we have nothing to do with that. We have nothing to do with that. Ae aren’t involved in that in any way, shape or form. And frankly, we are focused on what we are doing. What impact it has, I have no idea.
- Maine Same-Sex Marriage People's Veto, Question 1 (2009)
- Question 1 opponents
- Protect Maine Equality
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