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Maine Governor Signs Civil Rights Bill

Date: 
May 16, 1997

Today Maine officially became the 10th state to ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians. As expected, Governor Angus King signed the bill that passed the state legislature last week. The new law bans discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations.

The nine other states that have passed similar legislation are Rhode Island (1995); Minnesota (1993); Vermont, New Jersey and California (1992); Connecticut and Hawaii (1991); Massachusetts (1989) and Wisconsin (1982). The New Hampshire legislature also passed similar legislation last week and Governor Jeanne Shaheen has promised to sign it.

A New England clean-sweep will come for gay rights legislation with the expected whisk of Gov. Shaheen's pen. All six states in the region will then have such laws. "The momentum has started," said Kerry Lobel, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, (NGLTF). "New England has set an example for the rest of the nation. More states than ever are moving pro-gay legislation forward."

Although Governor King has signed the bill, opponents of the legislation threaten to have it repealed. Two conservative groups, the Christian Civic League and Concerned Maine Families have both said that they might bring a voter referendum to have the new law repealed. However, Lobel stated that "the people of Maine know what is right."

According to Sue Hyde, a New England based organizer for NGLTF, "Maine voters will become impatient with opponents of the measure. Concerned Maine Families has already had a state-wide referendum on this issue and they lost," she pointed out. In approving the measure, Hyde said "the legislature and Governor have basically done what the people have asked.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.