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School counselor targeted for supporting Maine’s pro-marriage Question 1
Don Mendell appearing in the TV ad in favor of Question 1
Don Mendell appearing in the TV ad in favor of Question 1

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A high school counselor is the subject of an ethics complaint to the Maine licensing board because of his appearance in a TV ad in favor of Maine’s Question 1, which would secure the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. His defenders say the complaint is an attempt to silence supporters of marriage.

Donald Mendell, a licensed counselor at Nokomis Regional High School, is the subject of a complaint accusing him of violating the state’s code of ethics for social workers because of his expressed position on marriage.

Mendell appeared in a “Vote Yes on 1” ad that would repeal a recent law that recognized same-sex “marriages.” The vote on Question 1 will take place on November 3.

According to a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing Mendell, the ad he participated in was a response to a “Vote No on One” ad that featured a Nokomis teacher encouraging a “no” vote from a classroom at the high school itself.

The complaint claimed that Mendell made public comments that “can endanger or promote discrimination.” It also noted that Mendell’s description of a fellow teacher as a “gay activist” violated the ethical code’s provision against “unwarranted negative criticism” of colleagues in communications.

The complaint also charged that Mendell has a “long history of being unsupportive of GLBTQ issues” and was “very vocal” in opposition to a homosexual student group. It cited a student who thought Mendell’s participation in the ad showed him to be “racist against gays,” and claimed another student thought the counselor’s actions would make students who believe they are homosexual feel Mendell is less accepting of them.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks criticized the complaint, saying:

“No one should have their livelihood placed in jeopardy because they believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This threat to Don, his family, and his career makes clear that those in favor of redefining marriage also want to penalize and silence those who don’t agree with them. So, the definition of marriage is not the only thing at issue here. Free speech, freedom of conscience, and religious liberty are also in danger.”

Mendell has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

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