by Max Brantley
A Massachusetts gay rights group, KnowThyNeighbor.org, has replicated in Arkansas what it has done in several other states.
It has compiled a list, from public records, of all the names and addresses of the Arkansans who signed the petitions to put Act 1 on last year's ballot. This was the anti-gay measure, approved by voters, that prohibits adoption or fostering parenting by unmarried people living together. It's part of the anti-gay agenda of the Family Council, but as has been well reported, it first of all harmed children in need of homes. It also hurt heterosexuals in the course of promoting that agenda. The ACLU has sued over the act.
The group's full news release is on the jump. It worked in conjunction with the Center for Artistic Revolution, headed by North Little Rock's Randi Romo. The release says, in part:
Tom Lang, a gay, married man and Director of KnowThyNeighbor, based in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, says that he uses the strategy of exposing the signers of anti-gay initiatives in order to generate the dialogue between both sides of this issue. “We believe at KnowThyNeighbor that if you truly feel that it is necessary to change laws and state constitutions to exclude gay people from the American experience then you should be proud to tell us who you are. And in like manner, if you are an LGBT person and you see someone that you know on this list, if you are related to this person or do business with this person that it is your responsibility to stand up and speak up for yourself, “ says Lang.
The searchable database -- by name, street, city, zip code, county -- can be linked from the group's webpage. (The data is a matter of public record, filed in the secretary of state's office, where it can be reviewed by all who wish to see it.)
NOTE: I'd caution against presuming names found on the list, though the same as those of some public figures, are in fact those public figures. For example: The former senator someone thought they found, has a different middle name and address than that of the petition signer. The prosecutor mentioned is not a resident of the address listed by someone of similar name. Etc.
COINCIDENTALLY: NY Times finds signs that the GOP may be rethinking opposition to gay marriage as a foundation of the party. The tide is running against them, with the old, angry Limbaughites constituting most of the opposition. And on the front, check this trailer for a coming documentary, "Outrage," on gay-bashing closeted Republicans.
THE FULL RELEASE
Little Rock, Arkansas, April 28, 2009 – KnowThyNeighbor.org, the Pro-Gay Advocacy Group which made headlines in 2005 by posting the names of signers of anti-gay petitions in Massachusetts and later in Florida is now focusing its attention on voters in Arkansas. Today, those 84,000 Arkansas residents who happened to sign what KnowThyNeighbor.org refers to as “The Anti-Gay” Unmarried Couple Ban or Act 1 back in 2008, will find that their names, addresses and the actual petitions bearing their signatures will be available on the internet, in a permanent, completely searchable database for public viewing.
KnowThyNeighbor states on its website that the information which is now available on 90,000 Arkansas voters is “public data taken from actual petition sheets supplied by the Secretary of State of Arkansas.” Tom Lang, a gay, married man and Director of KnowThyNeighbor, based in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, says that he uses the strategy of exposing the signers of anti-gay initiatives in order to generate the dialogue between both sides of this issue. “We believe at KnowThyNeighbor that if you truly feel that it is necessary to change laws and state constitutions to exclude gay people from the American experience then you should be proud to tell us who you are. And in like manner, if you are an LGBT person and you see someone that you know on this list, if you are related to this person or do business with this person that it is your responsibility to stand up and speak up for yourself, “ says Lang.
But Lang’s focus on Arkansas is more personal. “The losses to the gay community in November of 2008 with anti-gay initiatives reaching the voters and succeeding in California with Prop 8, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas made us realize that it was time to take the KnowThyNeighbor strategy nationwide. Where we can we will be databasing and publishing this information on anti-gay campaigns as far back as 2004 and will prepare to post timely and future initiatives directed against the gay community. All it takes is a little time and a modest amount of money,” states Lang. “We had to choose a first state. As each and every voter’s name, address, birthdate who signed Act 1 in 2008 had to be hand entered, then run and checked and re-checked against the master voter registration list supplied by the elections division, this process took a few months. We focused on Arkansas because the landscape here was much different than in other states. Arkansas already prohibits same-sex marriage. What happened in 2008 however was unconscionable and we decided to direct our efforts here. The Arkansas Family Council pushed a campaign that on all accounts was directed at the gay community, but it stepped over the line. No, the Arkansas Family Council and its associates high jumped over that line. It used the welfare of children, the most vulnerable in our society, those in foster care and in need of adoption, in order to prove their claim that loving gay couples should not be adoptive or foster parents, “ alleges Lang. “If you have a problem with me, if my sexual orientation is such a threat to you that you feel the need to take action against me, then come on, go after me. But don’t use children as fodder for your agenda. What sort of cowards would do that?” “I am hoping that the posting of the signers of this petition which initiated the measure will invigorate this conversation and direct some national attention on Arkansas,” Tom Lang.
From BallotPedia: The Unmarried Couples Ban is a citizen-initiated state statute that went before Arkansas voters on November 4, 2008. It was approved, making it illegal for any individuals cohabitating outside of a “valid” marriage to adopt or provide foster care to minors. While the measure was proposed primarily to prohibit same-sex couples from being adoptive or foster parents, this measure also applies to all otherwise qualified couples who are not legally married. A leading proponent of the initiative (Act 1) was the Family Council Action Committee based in Little Rock.
HERE'S THE RELEASE FROM CAR, THE LOCAL GROUP
Not long after the tragic passage of Act 1 at the polls, CAR was contacted by Tom Lang of Know Thy Neighbor, a Massachusetts based organization that specializes in posting on their website for public viewing the names of all of the individuals who sign ballot petitions that further disenfranchise members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Until now the primary focus has been on anti-marriage initiatives. We deeply appreciate that Tom Lang and Know Thy Neighbor understands how important what happened in Arkansas is to not only LGBTQ Arkansans and our allies, but to the rest of the nation.
CAR was asked to partner with Know Thy Neighbor to publicize the signatures that were used to place Act 1 on the 2008 ballot here in Arkansas. CAR unequivocally said yes!
At no time was the welfare of children ever the primary intent of Jerry Cox and his Family Council Action Committee. Children in the most need were placed in the unfortunate position of being a political football to support Mr. Cox and the Family Council’s systemic efforts to disenfranchise the LGBTQ community in Arkansas. Jerry Cox publically stated in a news broadcast that Act 1 was indeed about blunting the homosexual agenda.
The Family Council was also the author of the 2004 Constitutional Amendment that banned not only same sex marriages, it also prohibited any form of legal family recognition for lesbian and gay couples by forbidding civil unions and domestic partnerships.
Additionally Act 1 significantly shrank the pool of potential quality parents offering safe and loving homes to children who were in desperate need of homes. Act 1 did little to increase the numbers of married heterosexual couples signing up to adopt or provide foster care. Act 1 also banned unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting or providing foster care. Act 1 went further still; taking away the rights of parents to leave their children to relatives or friends who are unmarried couples, straight, lesbian or gay.
Today we at CAR are pleased to be a part of shining the light on the bigotry that continues to disenfranchise LGBTQ Arkansans. We are proud to be a part of peeling back the veil of anonymity that those who signed the petition may have assumed that they had. They don’t! These lists are a matter of public record. In partnership with Know Thy Neighbor we are sending a message, “If you attack the lives and families of the LGBTQ community, then you must be prepared to be held accountable and to be named!”
We are asking our members to share the information with everyone you know. Take a look at the list; if you see a family member, friend, co-worker, etc. then talk to that person. Ask them why? Why would they be a part of keeping you from full equality? Why would they allow children to be used in such a despicable way?
It is our stories, our faces and our names, that are the core of creating the change needed to move hearts and minds. We must continue to remind our fellow Arkansans that ALL Families Matter!