Clean Sweep in Michigan Deals Major Defeat to American Family Association, Says HRC

Two Major Miami Victories Help Reverse Legacy of Anita Bryant

Houston Voters Barely Reject Health Benefits for Domestic Partners

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign today applauded state organizations and activists for winning four out of five ballot measures on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. The encouraging results show that voters are increasingly rejecting discrimination and want to see all citizens treated fairly, says HRC.

"The smashing success of these campaigns signals a trend where voters are increasingly supporting equality and resoundingly defeating discrimination," said HRC National Field Director Seth Kilbourn. "Nowhere was this more apparent than in Michigan, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a divisive anti-gay misinformation campaign by the American Family Association and chose fairness."

Voters went to the polls yesterday to vote on GLBT issues in Houston, Miami Beach, Fla. and the Michigan cities of Huntington Woods, Kalamazoo and Traverse City. The gay-supportive measures all won, except for a narrow defeat in Houston.

In a 58 to 42 percent victory, Traverse City voters rejected changing the city's charter to prohibit measures that would grant gays, lesbians or bisexuals "protected" status. The anti-gay American Family Association prompted the proposed amendment in Traverse City after the city commission passed a resolution opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. If passed, the defeated amendment would have reversed that resolution and stopped future gay equality measures in the city.

"We are completely delighted to see that the people of Traverse City said 'no' to discrimination despite the American Family Association's scare tactics," said Traverse City Campaign Against Discrimination co-chair Bonnie Deigh.

In a second Michigan victory in Kalamazoo, a city charter amendment similar to the one in Traverse City failed with 54 to 46 percent of the voters supporting equality. In the Detroit suburb of Huntington Woods, 69 percent voted to uphold an ordinance approved by the city commission earlier this year prohibiting anti-gay discrimination, while 31 percent opposed it. "Michigan voters have soundly defeated these anti-gay ballot measures and took a stand for diversity and acceptance. This is a clean sweep," said Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for Triangle Foundation, a group active in fighting these and other anti-gay ballot measures in Michigan since 1994. "The AFA's message of discrimination will not fly in Michigan and we strongly encourage them to heed the message from voters and stop their anti-gay crusade."

Voters in Miami Beach voted 65.7 to 34.3 percent in favor of Measure 102 offering health care coverage to domestic partners of city employees. Voters also passed Measure 115, 68.5 to 31.5 percent, that expands pension benefits to cover the domestic partners of fire and police workers. These victories, made possible by the incredible grassroots organizing undertaken by SaveDade over the last few years, help reverse the legacy of Anita Bryant who kicked-off the modern anti-gay movement with her successful 1977 "Save the Children" campaign to overturn a Miami Dade County nondiscrimination ordinance. Yesterday's vote is the first time that Dade County residents voted on GLBT equality issues since the divisive 1977 campaign.

Despite a very well run and organized campaign, voters in Houston narrowly voted 51.5 to 48.5 percent to prohibit the city from offering health benefits to partners of gay and lesbian municipal employees. "No matter the final result, we made history today and should be proud," said Grant Martin, campaign manager of People for a Fair Houston. "We've had an unprecedented coalition of leaders from the business, religious, African-American and civil rights communities, all standing up for GLBT equality."

HRC supported the campaigns with funding, staff support and voter identification. In Michigan, HRC sent field staff to work with all three campaigns and also partnered with the statewide LGBT group Michigan Equality, on a voter file project to identify supportive and persuadable voters in each jurisdiction. Through this effort by HRC and Michigan Equality thousands of likely voters were identified for the campaigns to contact in order to persuade them to vote the right way and to turn out on November 6.

"The voter identification collaboration with HRC was invaluable to the campaigns," said Beth Bashert, president of Michigan Equality. "This partnership with HRC is a great example of how national and state organizations can work together to achieve incredible results for our community. Michigan Equality looks forward to future projects with HRC in Michigan."

In Houston, HRC contributed $5,200 directly to the campaign. Local HRC leaders and two HRC field organizers helped organize phone banking and block walking in October and GOTV efforts on Election Day.

"These ballot measures and other on-going work at the state and local level are a top priority for HRC," said Kilbourn. "Developing a winning message, identifying GLBT-supportive voters and implementing a strong field plan are the keys to winning ballot measures as well as legislative campaigns. HRC is committed to these efforts all across the country."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.