Heath-lite gay-baiting emerges

Just when you thought gay-baiting was fading away….

A year ago, Maine was in the midst of a campaign that ended with voters endorsing the rights of gay and lesbian people to marry.  2012’s campaign was generally civil and respectful.

But now, after marriages and marriage plans have gone on happily for months, it appears that gay-baiting is in the air.

Late last week, many Mainers were surprised to hear praise for Gov. LePage’s ‘Vaseline’ comment from Michael Heath, the former executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine. Although LePage’s comment metaphorically evoked anal rape, Heath was pleased that the governor referred to sodomy (which is typically consensual, can be between straight or gay couples, and involves oral or anal sex) in negative terms.

Reaction ranged from LePage’s spokesperson declining to comment to this paper’s editorializing about the remark’s resemblance to something you’d find in the satiric publication, The Onion.

And then there’s Heath-lite gay-baiting

For the lite version, you can see the on-line newsletter of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Maine Wire.

A piece in the MW rewords a newspaper article by reporter Michael Shepherd in a way that changes the meaning and makes a plan to support gay and lesbian Mainers sound like a plot hatched up by Dr. Evil.

Shepherd reports on a new strategic effort from EqualityMaine to improve the climate for gay and lesbian people across the state. All of that sounds very different when the MW, using highly charged terminology, rewrites parts of Shepherd’s article.

Here are three examples of the use of charged language by the MW:

1. The headline is “EqualityMaine plans gay re-education for rural Maine.” 

“Re-education” was done by the Chinese Communist Party under Mao when people were forcibly taken away to re-education camps.

Persecution during the Chinese Cultural Revolution

EqualityMaine, of course, isn’t planning anything like that. In fact, this is a group that sent people door to door for lengthy conversations about the gay and lesbian people in one’s families, workplaces, and lives.

2. Helping groups of gay youth is labeled “re-education.”

The MW quotes from a section of the strategic plan that’s about supporting youth groups that now exist and writes:

Another part of their plan calls for further efforts to target youths for re-education.

Re-education? Really?

This is the section of the EqualityMaine plan quoted by the MW that they say is a call for “re-education.”

Build capacity of youth advocacy by strengthening Maine’s existing LGBT, questioning and gender non-conforming youth groups and providing leadership development.

3. The MW suggests that providing information to school personnel about the needs of gay and lesbian youth contradicts campaign claims.

Here’s what they wrote:

Although gay advocates roundly dismissed accusations from religious conservatives that same-sex marriage would eventually allow homosexuality to be taught in schools, Equality Maine is now openly reporting that it intends to spread its influence into Maine’s public education system.

What is the MW talking about? This section from EqualityMaine’s plan, regarding their goal, to:

“Foster greater understanding, acceptance and support for LGBT, questioning and gender non-conforming youth in Maine schools by providing professional development and guidance to school personnel.”

So a plan to provide “professional development” to teachers and administrators somehow translates into “allow[ing] homosexuality to be taught in schools.” (By the way, what does it mean to teach homosexuality?)

For the MW, it’s insidious to support gay kids and help people in schools understand their needs.

It’s so awful that one must use a term from totalitarian regimes — re-education — to describe a project of engaging with people about gay and lesbian people’s experiences.

There are gay kids in Maine who fear bullying and gay couples who want to live in peace.

In writing about what EqualityMaine wants to do about those needs, the MW’s tone is not full-blown Michael Heath-like.

But it is Heath-lite in the implication that gay and lesbian people should not be accepted and respected for who they are.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.