RH Reality, a daily publication providing news, commentary, and analysis on reproductive health and reproductive justice issues, just published a podcast that tackles the explosion of the so-called religious freedom bills that have been popping up all over the country. This podcast might be of particular interest to those of us here in Maine because, during this legislation session, we’re facing with a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of our own.
The rise of RFRA bills in Maine and other states coincides with the widespread passage of marriage equality measures across the nation. The connections seem clear. In fact, supporters of RFRA bills often declare that they have the right to refuse services to LGBTQ people and same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs. A perfect example: in New Mexico, a wedding photographer was sued when she invoked the state RFRA in her refusal to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. Ultimately, the Supreme Court refused to hear the photographer’s case.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had to defeat a RFRA in Maine. Just last year, we worked in collaboration with a broad coalition of advocates to defeat LD 1428, a bill that, like all RFRA bills, would allow people to invoke their religion as a reason to discriminate against other Mainers. State RFRAs are excessive - here in Maine, religious freedom is already protected in the Maine Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, and over 13 individual statutes in state law.
In the coming weeks, keep an eye out for business and faith leaders from around the state speaking out against why this bill is bad for Maine.