UPDATED x2: Maine House Votes Down Controversial Religious Discrimination Bill LD 1428, 89-5212:45pm UPDATE: House just voted 89-52 to accept the Judicial Committee “ONTP” (Ought Not to Pass) recommendation moments ago, 89-52.
This was the final vote on LD 1428; it is now dead.
Roll call vote shows 5 GOP members broke with their party to join Democrats: Reps. Beaulieu of Auburn, Campbell of Orrington, Libby of Waterboro, MacDonald of Old Orchard Beach and Maker of Calais. 2 House Democrats voted for the bill: Rep. Stan Short (D-Pittsfield) and Steve Stanley (D-Medway).
Over 2 dozen rose to speak on the measure in a lengthy floor debate. Some quotes:
- Rep. Matt Moonen (D-Portland): “Please vote to end the war on gay people in our state.”
Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco): “Religious freedom is important, but this bill makes me feel like a second-class citizen… Name me an issue in Maine — I still haven’t heard one. There isn’t an issue. This is a bill searching for a problem, rather than solving one. This wastes taxpayer money… It’s fiscally responsible to oppose it.”
UPDATE #2 (1:45pm): Maine House Democrats issued a press release with more quotes from legislators:
- “This is not a bill about religious freedom; it will only create religious discrimination,” said Rep. Charles Priest of Brunswick, who chairs the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee. “Maine’s law and constitution has strong protections for religious freedom. This bill is not necessary.”
“This fight will continue across the country. Many states still do not have a human rights law that covers sexual orientation. But in Maine our voters have settled this, ” said Rep. Matt Moonen of Portland, during the floor debate.
“This bill moves Maine backwards on equality and women’s rights,” said Rep. Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick. “This is not religious freedom, it is legalized hate.”
National coverage here:
Reminder: The Senate voted down the bill 19-16 on Tuesday. The one Democrat who voted for the bill with the Republicans was Senator John Tuttle.
Link to House video here; session starts at 10 am. LD 1428, “An Act To Protect Religious Freedom” is listed as item 6-3 in the Divided Reports of the House Calendar.
Via press release this morning:
Maine House to take up controversial religious discrimination bill
Discrimination carve-out would undercut human rights, women’s rights
Augusta — The Maine House today will take up a controversial bill that would undercut human rights protections and women’s rights by creating a loophole in the state’s strong non-discrimination laws.
The religious discrimination bill, LD 1428, would carve out an exception for religious beliefs in the state’s non-discrimination laws, such as the Maine’s Human Rights Act.
“Religion should never be used as a cloak to discriminate,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick, whose father served as a pastor in the U.S. military. Eves attained his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
The Maine Senate rejected the GOP-sponsored measure earlier this week in a largely party-line vote of 19-16.
“Maine has led the country with our anti-discrimination laws,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham. “This bill is a big step backwards. There should be no exceptions or loopholes when it comes to discrimination.”
Maine is one of 32 states that does not allow for religious exceptions in non-discrimination laws. In the last 10 years, only six states have enacted similar bills.
Nationally laws like LD 1428 have been used to infringe upon women’s access to health care. In Texas a municipal bus driver refused to drive a woman to a reproductive health clinic on his bus route. At the federal level, corporations are trying to use the religious exception or loophole to avoid providing employees with health care that covers reproductive health.
“This measure would take Maine backwards on women’s rights and equality,” said Rep. Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan the Assistant Majority Leader. “The Maine legislature and courts have a track record of being careful and deliberate about protecting religious liberty while balancing other rights. This bill is not necessary. ”
During the public hearing on the bill, one survivor of the genocide in Rwanda, spoke about his experiences coming to America to escape persecution and asked the committee to oppose the bill.
The bill has met with strong opposition from a broad group of organizations, including ACLU of Maine, Coalition for Maine Women, Equality Maine, Family Planning Association of Maine, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Choice Coalition, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Maine Education Association, Maine LGBT Coalition, Maine Medical Association, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine School Management Association, Maine State Employees Association, Maine Women’s Lobby, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, Secular Coalition.