[i]This column was written for the Sept. 2005 [url=http://www.bangormetro.com]Bangor METRO[/url] magazine[/i]
Why I'm Voting YES on Question 1
by Scott K Fish
Maine needs civil rights for "sexual orientation" like I need the barking dog outside my window.
Adding "sexual orientation" to Maine's civil rights law is liberal politicians forcing on all of us unecessary, poorly written law to placate well-heeled extreme gay special interests.
Maine civil rights law protects everyone from discrimination based on sex, race, color, physical/mental disability, religion, ancestry/national origin, age, familial status, marital status. In March 2005 the Legislature and Governor added "sexual orientation," meaning "a person's actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression."
How do we defend ourselves in a law court, for instance, against someone's charge that our perception of them has violated their gender expression?
Twice in statewide votes (1998, 2000) Mainers said our civil rights law is fine wihtout "sexual orientation." Maine's representatives in the Legislature said no a few times to the "sexual orientation" change too.
I worked ten years for the Maine Legislature, listening year after year to all sides of this issue. Life in Maine for homosexuals, they said, was on par with life for Jews in Nazi Germany, with blacks in the pre-civil rights U.S. south. Homosexuals are routinely denied credit by Maine bankers, they said, and employers won't hire them. If homosexuals have a job, they'll be fired. Finding a house/apartment is, for them, an arduous task. Why, Maine is a wasteland of broke, homeless gay people in fear for their lives.
This ugly portrait of Maine painted by "special rights" advocates has no basis in fact and I resent it.
When Maine voters rejected "sexual orientation" in 2000, I read an e-mail in which urban gay activists said we needed gay outreach programs in rural Maine.
In the Maine I know "outreach" has been ongoing for generations. It's called daily life. Gay Mainers in the rural Maine I know are known by their first names, as neighbors. Sexual orientation? No one cares. It's a boring non-issue most people are sick of having thrown back at them. Urban political activists who think Gay Hunters' Breakfasts or Lesbian Tractor Pulls are key to picking up rural support at the ballot box for "sexual orientation" don't understand rural Maine.
Most evidence I've seen of alleged sexual orientation discrimination can as easily be the ups-and-downs of living. Who hasn't lost a job? Been denied credit? Been misunderstood, disliked and even reviled? Are we to amend Maine's civil rights law to soothe every sub-group's pet peeves? Maine bikers have already been to the Legislature to try to get their sub-group included in the law, saying they're discriminated against because of peoples' bias toward motorcyclists.
Maine will vote on "sexual orientation," yet again, in November 2006. Let's put back our civil rights law to the way it was: comprehensive. Forcing "sexual orientation" on Maine may be perceived as serving a political purpose, But it wastes the time, energy, and good will of Maine majority who have said already, "No, thank you."