Maine’s House of Representatives approved legislation Thursday that would allow Amish deer hunters to wear red instead of hunter orange clothing.

The bill, L.D. 426, which still needs approval by the Senate and Gov. Paul LePage, would create an exception allowing deer hunters to wear red if their religious beliefs forbid them from wearing a flashier color that brings attention to them.

State law requires deer hunters using firearms to wear at least two articles of hunter orange clothing, including a hat.

Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, was asked to sponsor the legislation by Amish communities in Fort Fairfield and Easton in Aroostook County.

“I feel that failure to do so will almost certainly lead to a legal confrontation between the state of Maine and this group of Amish people, a battle that is absolutely unnecessary and one that can almost certainly be resolved by my bill,” McCrea said in a statement issued Thursday.

The vote was 120-27 in support of L.D. 426. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also testified in support of the bill, according to the House majority office.

Members of those Amish communities testified in support of McCrea’s bill, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

“Our national church group has maintained a belief against the use of wearing blaze orange because of its bright color,” Noah Yoder, a member of the Amish community in Maine, said. “Our local wardens have asked us to continue pushing for legislation that will allow us to wear red, rather than waiting until one of us gets cited for not wearing blaze orange.”

A similar bill was presented to the Legislature in 2015, but failed to pass. It’s not clear what shade of red would be authorized under the bill or whether game wardens would be required to ask a hunter about their religious beliefs. McCrea could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

“My heart is in it and it’s a no-cost issue,” McCrea told the Press Herald earlier this year. “It’s an issue of religious freedom.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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