An anti-LGBT rights group launched a referendum effort on Friday that would – if enough signatures are gathered – ask Maine voters to remove protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Chelsea group, called Equal Rights Not Special Rights, has proposed eliminating the words “sexual orientation” from the Maine Human Rights Act, a 2005 law that prevents discrimination in employment, housing, loans and in public places, such as refusing service at a restaurant. The wording of the referendum has been approved by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, but organizers have not started collecting signatures.

Even though there have been gains in rights for LGBT individuals in Maine and the nation – including a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the country – there are still no federal protections that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. The federal Civil Rights Act, first approved in the 1960s, outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin but does not mention sexual orientation.

“In many states, you could get married on a Friday, but lose your job on Monday based on your sexual orientation,” said Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, a group that advocates for LGBT rights. Twenty-eight states offer no legal protections for LGBT individuals, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

In Maine, the state human rights act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

But those protections would be eliminated if Equal Rights Not Special Rights has its way.


The group, led by the Rev. Michael Heath and Paul Madore, would need to collect 61,123 valid signatures within a year after the first signature was collected, to appear on the ballot. The earliest it could be on the ballot is November 2017.

“Nobody could bring any legal action against anyone on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Heath, who characterized homosexuality as a sin against God.

Heath said by striking sexual orientation from the Maine Human Rights Act, bakers selling wedding cakes, for instance, would be legally allowed to refuse service to gay customers. And he said schools would not be mandated by the state to teach that sex among homosexuals is acceptable.

“Only ordered liberty can protect everyone from the same fate suffered by bakers, photographers and innocent schoolchildren,” Heath said during a news conference Friday at the State House. “Equal rights for all. Special sexual orientation rights for none.”

Moonen pointed to numerous polls that show growing support for LGBT rights. Mainers approved a referendum in 2005 by a 55 to 45 percent margin adding sexual orientation protections to the Maine Human Rights Act.

“The people of Maine settled this issue in 2005,” Moonen said. “What they’re trying to do is so out of touch with the values that we have as Mainers.”


Mainers, after repealing a same-sex marriage law in a 2009 referendum, approved same-sex marriage in a 2012 referendum by a 53-47 percent margin. A New York Times poll in 2014 found that 63 percent of Mainers supported same-sex marriage and 27 percent opposed it.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

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