“This is about responsibility and dialogue,” said Tom Lang, KnowThyNeighbor.org’s director. “These petition signers need to stand behind their signatures and be responsible for this dehumanizing attack on the gay community. It’s disgraceful that they have chosen to exercise their prejudice at the expense of children who are now being denied access to loving adoptive and foster parents. Such activity must be challenged and cannot be allowed to pass under the cover of darkness.”
As in Massachusetts and Florida, KnowThyNeighbor.org expects that many petition signers will be confronted about their actions as their names are discovered on the website by family members, friends, coworkers, customers, and acquaintances. “These conversations can be uncomfortable for both parties,” says Lang, “but they are desperately needed. The more that gays and lesbians talk about the importance of their relationships and their love for their children, the faster stereotypes break down and both sides begin to realize how much they have in common.”
The data that appears on KnowThyNeighbor.org was provided by the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office and is a matter of public record. KnowThyNeighbor.org scanned the paper petitions and transcribed them into the electronic database that is now available on its website. The first name of each petition signer is linked directly to a pdf version of the actual document they signed.
The petition in question garnered enough signatures to make it to the Arkansas ballot last November. According to ballotpedia.com, it was approved by the voters with 57 percent voting in favor and 43 against — making it illegal for any individuals cohabiting outside of a valid marriage to adopt or provide foster care to minors. Ballotpedia.com states that, “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.”
Tom Lang, a gay married Republican, and Aaron Toleos, a straight married Democrat, founded KnowThyNeighbor.org in July 2005 to counter a proposed anti-gay marriage amendment in Massachusetts. That amendment was defeated with over 75% of the state legislature voting it down. The organization expanded to Florida in 2006 where it partnered with Christ Church of Peace in Jacksonville to post almost 400,000 names online. In 2007, KnowThyNeighbor.org launched a campaign in Oregon to oppose two anti-gay petition drives. Both petitions failed to meet the threshold for signatures.