Maine Senate Votes 19-16 Against LD 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom”
On the same day that Kansas state senators rejected a similar bill that had won support in that state’s House, Maine’s Senate took up LD 1428, “An Act to Protect Religious Freedom” (earlier write up here).
A lengthy floor debate transpired with many senators on both sides standing to present their views. Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Linda Valentino (D-Cumberland) spoke first in strong opposition to the bill:
- “I see this bill as a step backwards. I see this bill as being filled with unintended consequences. I see this bill as being used as an end run around the Maine Human Rights Act. … It is trying to erode the existing women’s rights and gay rights that we have fought so hard to attain. I support and believe strongly in the First Amendment which provides for religious freedom, but I cannot support this bill because it is a step backwards. This bill would allow extremists to hide behind the words ‘religious freedom’ as a way to circumvent our anti-discrimination laws.”
Earlier, Valentino had issued the following statement as the committee voted 8-4 ONTP on the bill before sending it to the Senate:
“I support and believe strongly in the First Amendment which provides for religious freedom. This bill would do nothing more than foster and legalize discrimination. We’ve come too far to take such a drastic step backward. One danger of this measure is the unintended consequences. Because your religion ‘says so’ does not mean you have carte blanche to break the law.”
“This law basically says that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it enacts a law. This is about government. this isn’t about private citizens against private citizens. It does not allow religious people to get away with anything they want to. It does not guarantee claimants a victory in government actions. It simply requires that the government has a strong justification.”
Senator Chris Johnson (D-Lincoln) agreed with Valentino.
“I believe wholeheartedly in religious freedom as established in our U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Maine. What I do not support is the overreach in this bill. My parents taught me long ago that my right to swing my arms ends when it meets up against another person’s right to not be assaulted. We all have to live this balance, free to personally hold and practice beliefs, but not free to impose our beliefs on others at the expense of their rights. Our laws exist to codify and implement balances between the many constitutionally expressed rights, as well as the interactions between people holding those rights.”
Ultimately the bill was voted “ONTP” (ought not to pass), 19-16. It now will go before the House for more votes.