Mass. Gay Rights Group Decries Scare Tactics

BOSTON--A gay-rights group yesterday accused opponents of the state's new law prohibiting discrimination against gays in housing, employment and credit of using hatred and fear in their campaign to get it repealed.

At a Statehouse news conference, members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) accused Citizens for Family First of runing a "homophobic and vicious campaign of misinformation."

The gay rights law took effect Feb. 15 and made Massachusetts the second state in the nation, following Wisconsin, to have a statewide anti-discrimination law for gays.

Citizens for Family First is waging a campaign to put a repeal referendum on the November general election ballot.

The group still must get a favorable ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court to get the question on the ballot.

Attorney General James Shannon has ruled that the gay-rights law cannot be repealed through a referendum because portions of the new law make references to religious institutions, which are exempted from its provisions.

The state constitution prohibits referendums on laws dealing with religion.

Opponents of the law have argued that the exemption for churches and other religious institutions does not make it a law dealing with religion.

At the news conference, GLAAD members distributed copies of Citizens for Family First literature that questioned the gay lifestyle and also questioned whether the rights of heterosexuals would be infringed by the new law.

According to the literature, Citizens for Family First contends the new law "protects illegal behavior" and violates the rights of people who choose not to "live in close proximity to or rent to someone whose behavior violates your religious beliefs."

Gay rights activist Arie Gonzales accused Citizens for Family First of "pushing incidious bigotry and prejudice and fear that has eaten away the rights of people throughout history."

But Sen. Edward Kirby (R-Whitman), one of the leading repeal advocates, said the rally was staged because gay rights activists realize the chances of bringing the repeal question to voters are improving.