CommunityPam's House Blend

Maine moves to extend anti-discrimination laws to gays

Martin Ripley of Augusta delivers emotional testimony during a hearing on LD 1196 Wednesday. He said he has experienced workplace discrimination because he is gay. Right: Opponents of the bill, (from left) Glyneta Thomson of Surry, John Linnehan of Ellsworth, Matt McDonald of Bangor and Charla Bansley of Ellsworth. Bansley is state director of Concerned Women for America of Maine. Photo: John Clarke Russ.

Tell me how reasonable (supposedly Christian) people in this day and age to think that it’s just fine for a worker to be harassed, abused and forced out of a job simply because they are gay. Oh that’s right. We’re under the scornful eye of the AmTaliban-types such as the Concerned Women for America, which is providing the opposition in Maine to a bill backed by the governor to add sexual orientation to its human rights laws. (BangorDailyNews):

Gay rights supporters squared off with religious conservatives in an emotional, standing room only public hearing Wednesday about whether Maine should extend its anti-discrimination laws to homosexuals. “The long and short of why I am here is this: I am a hard worker and enjoy having a job. But it’s been very hard for me to keep a job since I came out nine years ago,” Martin Ripley of Augusta told members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee during testimony on Gov. John Baldacci’s gay rights bill, LD 1196.

Ripley said he was subjected to death threats while working at Bath Iron Works and decided to quit after he was struck in the back with a bolt. He said his sexual orientation caused him to be fired from subsequent jobs, although he now has a decent occupation.

“At times, I’ve slept in my car for weeks at a time or camped out in a tent because I could not afford any rent,” said Ripley. “I am a hard worker. I have moved on because I have had no choice.”

But opponents argued that other factors must have been at play if gay workers were fired and that there is no need to extend “special” rights to any class of people. They also believed supporters had another agenda.

“Don’t kid yourselves. If enacted, this legislation will … open the door to civil unions and same-sex marriage,” Glyneta Thomson of Surry, a Christian and a social conservative, told the committee.

…On a fast track through the Legislature, the bill would amend the Maine Human Rights Act to add sexual orientation as a class protected against discrimination in employment, credit, housing, education and public accommodations. Race, gender, religion, age, and physical and mental disabilities are among the classes already protected by the act.

Supporters far outnumbered opponents at the hearing, which lasted for four hours in an upstairs committee room, overflowing with people and television cameras.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding