John M. Becker

Maine House Takes Up 'Right to Discriminate' Bill

Filed By John M. Becker | February 20, 2014 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-discrimination law, contraception, Maine, marriage equality, religious exemption, religious privilege, special rights

maine-flag.gifThis hour, the Maine House of Representatives will take up LD 1428, a "religious freedom" bill that would create a broad faith-based carve-out in state law, essentially allowing people to violate others' civil rights on the basis of their religious beliefs... because Jesus.

The bill was narrowly rejected in the Maine Senate on Tuesday, when the chamber voted 19-16 to concur with the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill "ought not to pass." All fifteen Senate Republicans voted in favor of the bill, along with one Democrat.

A large coalition of civil-liberties, legal, women's rights, LGBT rights, labor, and secular groups opposes the measure. Judiciary Committee chair Linda Valentino (D) says it's clearly intended to undercut human rights in Maine, particularly for LGBT people's access to marriage and women's access to contraception:

"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... This bill would allow extremists to hide behind the words 'religious freedom' as a way to circumvent our anti-discrimination laws."

The measure also faces stiff Democratic opposition in the House. Speaker Mark Eves said in a statement that "religion should never be used as a cloak to discriminate," and Majority Leader Seth Berry added, "there should be no exceptions or loopholes when it comes to discrimination."

But Sen. David Burns, the bill's Republican sponsor, calls it "reasonable and much-needed" because it requires the government to have a "strong justification" for privileging people's civil rights over an individual's religious preferences.

Debate in the Maine House begins now, at 10:00 Eastern Standard Time. Click here to watch.

h/t: Bilerico reader Andi Parkinson.

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