On February 20 the Maine House rejected a Republican-sponsored bill that would have allowed anti-gay discrimination in the state under the claim of remaining sincere to one’s religious beliefs. Instead, the proposed bill reached its end (at least for now) with a count of 89-52.
The proposed legislation, LD1428, “would carve out an exception for religious beliefs in the state’s non-discrimination laws, such as the Maine’s Human Rights Act,” said Maine’s Speaker of the House, Mark Eves, in a published statement. Eves added that it “would undercut human rights protections and women’s rights by creating a loophole in the state’s strong non-discrimination laws.” The House’s denial of the bill follows a week behind a similar decision in the Senate.
“Please put to end the war on gay people in our state,” Maine Democratic State Rep Matthew Moonen said in opposition to the anti-gay bill.
Senator David Burns, who sponsored the bill, described it as a balancing test for government before it can impede an individual’s religious expression.
Representative Justin Chenette, who is the youngest openly gay legislator in the United States at twenty-two, stated “Religious freedom is important, but this bill makes me feel like a second-class citizen…This bill is searching for a problem, rather than solving one.”
Just one month prior to the vote, Amy Sneirson—executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission—told lawmakers that the bill could potentially nullify the Maine Human Rights Act by prioritizing religious belief over all of the other rights protected in the act.
Although LD1428 didn’t survive in Maine, Republican leaders revealed that other states across the nation are attempting to enact similar anti-gay legislation.