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Fighting A Ballot Question

Pricey Effort Waged Against Direct Initiative

Associated Press

August 20, 2008

Tens of thousands of dollars is being raised in an effort to persuade Connecticut voters to reject a proposal on the November ballot to reopen the state constitution.

The state's largest teachers union, the Connecticut Education Association, has contributed $40,000 to the group "Vote No: Protect Our Constitution." Planned Parenthood of Connecticut has given $5,000 to the same cause, according to filings with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

That news prompted one member of the group pushing to change the constitution, the Connecticut Constitution Convention Campaign, to send out e-mails urging its members to contribute. The campaign is a coalition of groups that wants voters to approve a state convention so the Connecticut constitution can be changed.

The Connecticut Constitution Convention Campaign has raised $1,110.

"They're being outspent 10-to-1. That's pretty serious," said Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. He sent an urgent e-mail to members Tuesday, telling them the campaign "is in trouble and needs our help."

The Family Institute wants a system of direct initiative in which people can petition to get issues onto the ballot because it hopes voters will eventually pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Other groups involved in the campaign have other concerns, such as eminent domain and taxes.

Matthew Daly of Glastonbury, who is heading the effort, said he's not worried at this point about being grossly outspent.

"Our fundraising has been slow, which kind of goes hand in hand for this time of year," he said. "I'm not surprised. If we're where we are by the end of September, then I will be concerned."

Daly's coalition hopes to raise enough money to buy newspaper, radio and television ads explaining the importance of including direct initiative in the state constitution. He believes it's an issue people will support.

"It's not really the issue. I think we have a winning issue," he said. "The question is reaching as many people as we can."

Urging A 'No' Vote

Anne Stanback, president of the group Love Makes A Family, said her group which supports same-sex marriage is urging people to vote no, and plans to contribute money to the effort.

She fears voters will be misled into thinking a constitutional amendment will lead to real change.

"It's the legislators who will be deciding who the delegates are," Stanback said. "They will be the ones who decide what questions get raised in the convention and if anything happens at all."

Stanback said her group is involved because the Family Institute is playing such a lead role in pushing for a constitutional convention.

"This is the last opportunity of a generation to keep loving gay couples from marrying. That's why they are putting so much effort into this," she said.

"They are not going to win by looking to the legislature. They need to use their scare tactics, and they believe the time is right for that because we may get a decision soon from the Connecticut Supreme Court."

Eight gay couples are challenging the state law that prohibits them from marrying. The Supreme Court has heard arguments from both sides, but has not yet issued its ruling.

If a majority vote yes in November, a convention will be held consisting of people appointed by the General Assembly.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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