EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL IN MAINE & MISSOURI
In 1997, the Main legislature passed a bill guaranteeing freedom from discrimination
within the state. This action culminated a 25 year effort to extend human rights in the
area of sexual orientation. It generated some controversy because it was seen by many as a
law that protected the rights of gays and lesbians. It in fact protected heterosexuals as
well from bigoted discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Governor
signed the bill into law in 1997-MAY.
Some Fundamentalist Christian and other conservative groups organized a rarely used
"people's veto" to remove sexual orientation from the non-discrimination law.
Polls indicated that 60% of the population supported the bill as is. But less than one in
four adults made the effort to vote in the mid-winter referendum. Maine made history in
becoming the first state that repealed a statewide anti-discrimination law which protected
gays and lesbians.
One editorial (1) commented:
"Gay people cannot take their rights for granted. Even when they have
secured them, there are referendums, legal challenges and crackpot legislators
who can reopen the debate. Eventually, the debate is dominated by the people
who hate and the people who are hated. Those in the middle, who tolerate and
even accept gay people, lose interest and do not raise their voices. Others,
who are tolerant toward other minorities, can't find it in their hearts to
extend that acceptance to gays. The volatile mix of public apathy, anti-gay
fanaticism and the ballot box make gay people a group for whom vigilance is a
daily fact of life..."
"When it takes centuries to establish basic justice in the law, it's sad and
ironic that it can take only months to overturn it. In the end, however, the victory of
small-minded majorities will fall to the enlightened recognition that civil rights are
The Missouri legislature is about to debate a bill extending human rights protection to
persons of all sexual orientations.
|Irvin Decker, "One Step Forward, One Step Back", Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, MO,