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Effort to rollback LGBT rights in Maine is misguided

There is currently an effort underway to gather support for a ballot initiative that would remove protections for LGBT people from the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA).  Michael Heath, the former head of the Maine Christian Civic League and who has reportedly compared homosexuality to sorcery, is leading the effort to collect signatures to put this issue on the ballot.

“This would really turn back the clock,” says Matt Moonen, the interim executive director of the group Equality Maine. “It would make it legal again to fire someone from their job or deny them housing or kick them out of a restaurant simply because of who they are.”

Heath’s proposed legislation would amend the MHRA so that it no longer prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.  His proposed legislation would also prohibit granting “special rights” (whatever that means) to a person based on their sexual orientation.

The MHRA has prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation for over ten years.  Heath apparently thinks it is fair for employers to fire people based on who they love instead of whether they are a good employee.  Hopefully, most Mainers will disagree with him.  Tellingly, the current leadership of the Maine Christian Civic League does not support Heath’s efforts.

It is probably not coincidental that this effort to rollback rights for LGBT people comes at a time when legal protections for LGBT people appear to be growing.  Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court held last year that states cannot prohibit same-sex marriage.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has also recently interpreted the federal law that bans sex discrimination in employment to include a bar on sexual orientation discrimination.  According to the EEOC, “while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its list of protected bases, the Commission, consistent with Supreme Court case law holding that employment actions motivated by gender stereotyping are unlawful sex discrimination and other court decisions, interprets the statute’s sex discrimination provision as prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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