Friday, July 01, 2005

Maine and Gay Discrimination By: The Political Heretic

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Religious conservatives associated with two state organizations may have collected enough signatures to put a vote on a new gay rights law up for a vote. The law in question prohibits anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodation and credit, but does not authorize domestic partnership legislation, civil unions, or marriage. Two groups that collected the signatures urging this repeal: the Christian Civic League of Maine, and the Maine Grassroots Coalition, apparently collected 57,000 votes - approx 6,000 more than they needed to. On two prior occasions, they succeeded in their mission to have similarly worded legislation repealed.

The legislation in question does not provide for gay union benefits of any kind and since the legislators around are well aware of domestic partnership and civil union legislation that passed in other states, the anti discrimination law they passed in no way can be interpreted to authorize such benefits. If the legislators wanted to provide such benefits, they would have passed domestic partnership, civil union, or marriage legislation to that effect.

The law more than likely was created in order to protect gay employees who either outed or outed themselves from being fired on the spot, or the agent and tenant from an eviction notice on account of their sexual attraction, and the gay high school student from harassment or unequal treatment in extracurricular activities.

Our Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this matter, but the banned discrimination referred to here seems constitutionally dubious to begin with and should, as the Maine legislators did, be prohibited. The Equal Protection Clause to the Fourteenth Amendment requires people who are similarly situated to be treated alike provided there is is no rational basis related to a legitimate government interest justifying discrimination. And the law in question in forbids discrimination in those areas where gay and straight Americans have a lot in common. The manager at a Target Store or the CEO at any big company would have no rational basis to discriminate between two employees on account of their sexual orientation, and the landlord would have no basis to distinguish between the gay and straight couple "living in sin."

Maine's voters will have a third opportunity to strike this law down, but they should decline. There is no reason why gays should be deprived of the right to make an honest living, or the right to a home. Gay rights activists fought similar repeal efforts twice already and failed, but this blogger hopes the third time is the charm and they finally succeed and stop the voices opposing tolerance.

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