AUGUSTA – In a victory for the rights of all Mainers, the Maine House of Representatives voted down LD 1428, a bill that would allow Mainers to use their religion as an excuse to discriminate against others, 89-52. The ACLU of Maine is strongly opposed to the bill, which would undermine the Maine Human Rights Act and other important laws. On Tuesday, the Maine Senate voted against LD 1428, 19-16.
“Today, our legislators recognized that we can protect religious freedom without putting the personal beliefs some individuals above the common good of all,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, policy counsel at the ACLU of Maine. “LD 1428 would undermine the Maine Human Rights Act and other important protections that the people of Maine worked hard to enact. This bill would create many problems and solve none.”
Religious freedom is already explicitly protected in the Maine Constitution, the U.S. Constitution, and over 13 individual statutes in state law. The Maine Human Rights Act explicitly protects people from discrimination on the basis of religion.
LD 1428 goes beyond existing protections, allowing individuals to claim their religion allows them to break existing laws that were put in place to protect all Mainers – including the Maine Human Rights Act protections against discrimination, laws on domestic abuse, and laws on public safety. It would also provide individuals a claim in court that any government policy burdens their freedom of religion.
“Contrary to the bill’s title, LD 1428 would not protect religious freedom. Rather, it would elevate religion over the rule of law, giving every person veto power over any government policy,” said Amarasingham. “Everyone’s religious beliefs should be respected and protected, but no one should be above the law.”
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills testified against the bill, arguing that it would “give special rights to some while infringing on the rights of others.” The bill also faced broad opposition from organizations including the 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 Mayors Coalition, Maine Medical Association, Maine Municipal Association, Maine People’s Alliance, Maine School Management Association, Maine State Employees Association, Maine Women’s Lobby, Religious Coalition Against Discrimination and the Secular Coalition.
The bill will return to the Senate on Tuesday.