Legislative Year in Review
The Maine State Legislature faced a lot of tough decisions this year, with several bills of particular interest to EqualityMaine, our members and supporters. Issues ranged from LGBT rights to basic principles of safety and democracy, as our elected officials in Augusta debated voting rights, an attempt to undermine Maine’s hard-won Human Rights Act and bullying.
Our legislative priorities for this year were:
Protecting Voting Rights– LD 1376
Despite its widespread popularity in Maine—tens of thousands of voters use it every election year—the Legislature repealed a 38-year-old law allowing same-day voter registration. Now, Maine voters can no longer register and cast a ballot on the same day, meaning the almost 60,000 voters who did so on Election Day in 2008 might be turned away from the polls in the next election. A strong coalition effort is underway to repeal this harmful law, and EqualityMaine is proud to be working with our colleagues across Maine to restore same-day registration.
Safeguarding the Human Rights Act– LD 1046
After an intensive grassroots and lobbying campaign, EqualityMaine and our allies defeated a proposed bill that would have prevented transgender people in Maine from using public restrooms that reflect their gender. The bill was an attempt to undermine the Maine Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and includes gender identity. This was a remarkable, bi-partisan victory in a challenging legislative session. EqualityMaine extends our gratitude to everyone who worked so hard on this bill, especially leaders and activists in the transgender community.
Strengthening Anti-Bullying Efforts – LD 1237
After unexpected opposition surfaced at the last minute, the anti-bullying legislation sponsored by legislator Terry K. Morrison (D-South Portland) has been sent back to committee to be considered again in 2012. LD 1237 began with overwhelming support, even earning a pledge from Governor LePage that he would sign it when it crossed his desk. But just prior to the end of session, the Christian Civic League issued an action alert urging legislators to vote against the bill. They claimed the bill didn’t provide adequate protection of first amendment rights, and most outrageously, suggested the bill should be defeated because it reflected a “gay agenda.” Sadly, the bill would have had far-reaching benefits for the many thousands of Maine children, including LGBTQ youth, who experience bullying and its negative consequences every year. We are hopeful that the Legislature will do the right thing next year and pass this much-needed legislation.