President Barry Mills announced his plan to vote in opposition of Question 1 November 8 in a letter to the Orient this week.

If passed, the referendum would repeal legislation passed last spring that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and education. Religious corporations, associations, or organizations that do not receive public funds are exempt from this provision.

"As a Brunswick resident and citizen of Maine," Mills stated in the letter, "I believe current efforts to repeal these protections at the polls in November are wrong and inconsistent with the fundamental principle of equality in America."

Mills cited Bowdoin's longstanding position against discrimination in the letter, and said that "the protections provided by Bowdoin College to its students, faculty, and staff do not promote one lifestyle over another. They simply provide equal footing for all to participate in our learning community."

Mill's decision to publicly oppose Question 1 pleased the newly formed Queers & Allies (Q&A) organization, a group that has taken on the mission of opposing Question 1. The organization planned on publicly asking Mills to draft a personal statement opposing the referendum.

Asked in an interview with the Orient if the group influenced his decision to write the letter, Mills said, "That's not what drove me to write it."

He said he had been planning to take a position before he knew the group existed.

Last spring marked the third time this legislation has passed in Augusta; the first two times it was narrowly repealed in referendums like the one Maine voters will face in less than two weeks.

If the referendum passes again, Mills said in the interview that he "would not support any changes in Bowdoin's current policies." Such policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at Bowdoin in ways similar to the legislation recently passed in Augusta.

Asked if he has any concern that his endorsement will marginalize members of the College community who support the referendum, Mills said, "People always disagree. No one should feel marginalized because people disagree."

The letter came just four days after Mills released an official statement from the College's Bias Incident Group denouncing discrimination on campus. The Bias Incident Group's letter, sent via email to all students, faculty, and staff, was in reaction to an act of vandalism deemed by the group to be discriminatory in nature (see page 3 for details).

Bernie Hershberger, director of the College's counseling services and a leader of Q&A, expressed excitement upon hearing of Mills's letter. "I am thrilled that President Mills is willing to take such a courageous and principled stance against referendum one," he said.

"It sends a clear message that Bowdoin College is gay affirmative and that students, faculty, and staff can feel safe in being fully themselves inclusive of their sexual orientation," said Hersberger.

Hershberger and Q&A spent the week collecting signatures from faculty, staff, and students who oppose a "yes" vote on 1. The signatures appear with an official statement from the organization in a paid advertisement in this week's Orient.

According to Munny Munford '07, Mills's statement affirms Q&A's mission as an organization committed to securing a safe environment for all students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Munford recently expressed concern that, "because of the urgency under which we are working to get the signatures ready for publication [in the Orient], we may not actually capture a true representation of our support amongst the community."

She stressed that even after the signatures are featured in the Orient, efforts would continue to "rally signatures for the pure visualization and display of support within the College community."

"So often, we lose the appearance of a united community. The point of collecting signatures is to help create a more unified voice against proposition one from within the community," Munford said.

Mills's letter did not mark the first time he has publicly taken a stance on a political issue. As part of his remarks at the rededication of the Bowdoin Chapel last fall, Mills spoke out against a tax question facing Maine voters called the "Palesky tax cap." He called the cap, which ultimately failed to pass, "bad policy and bad law."