Students handed antigay pamphlets

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 16 2003 11:00 PM ET

A Christian group that considers homosexuality immoral distributed antigay leaflets to students entering an Augusta, Maine, civil rights conference Tuesday. Michael Heath, executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said 15 clergymen handed out the literature at doors to the Augusta Civic Center, where the daylong Maine Civil Rights Team Conference was being held. At least half of the students refused to take the pamphlets, Heath said.

League members were concerned about the content of some of the 30 workshops, including two in which discrimination against gay people was discussed. One of the workshops is a presentation in which gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered young people tell their own stories and discuss how peers can
support them. Another was a performance of the The Laramie Project, a play that focuses on the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Tom Harnett, a lawyer in the state attorney general's office, which organizes the annual event, said the Maine Civil Rights Act protects citizens from violence stemming from bias related to race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, among other traits. It would not make sense to exclude presentations on antigay bias at a civil rights conference, he said, noting that the victims in one third of Maine's civil rights violations were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

The Christian Civic League claims that the attorney general's office was sponsoring "homosexual indoctrination for 13-year-olds" and wants public funding for the conference discontinued.