LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Maine:
Since 2005, LGBTQ non-discrimination in Maine has ensured statewide protections from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Following decades of advocacy, including many hard losses, these protections were adopted by the vote of a majority of Mainers on November 8, 2005.
The Path to LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Maine:
- 1971: The Maine Human Rights Commission is founded and charged with the responsibility of upholding the state’s non-discrimination law. At the time, the law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
- 1977-1993: Bills to add sexual orientation to Maine’s non-discrimination laws are brought before the Maine legislature nine different times, but the bills continually stall.
- 1977-1992: Local and national organizations engage in conversations about who LGBT people in Maine, and support for comprehensive non-discrimination grows.
- 1992: Portland, Maine’s largest city, becomes the first in the state to offer municipal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and Lewiston, Maine shortly after follows suit. Local ordinances like this build momentum toward statewide legislation extending non-discrimination to LGBT people.
- November 3, 1992: Opponents of inclusive non-discrimination protections place the Portland and Lewiston ordinances on the local ballot, seeking to repeal the protections. Voters in Portland overwhelmingly uphold the city’s ordinance, but the ordinance in Lewiston is repealed.
- 1993: For the first time ever, a bill to update Maine’s non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation passes in both the House and Senate of the Maine Legislature. The bill is vetoed shortly after by Governor John McKernan.
- November 7, 1995: A majority of Mainers vote to reject Question 1, which seeks to shut down conversation about LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination by limiting protected classifications in state and local Maine law to just a few (such as race, sex, religion, age, and disability). Mainers wisely saw through the ballot initiative’s pointed attempt to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity from non-discrimination protections by voting against the measure.
- May 16, 1997: Maine’s Legislature again votes in favor of extending protections to people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and Governor Angus King signs the bill into law. Opponents of the measure immediately begin work to repeal the law at the ballot.
- February 10, 1998: Opponents of non-discrimination protections push through a special statewide election, in which they repeal a law to extend protections to Mainers from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- June 1998: Bar Harbor, among Maine’s most popular tourist destinations, adds protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity for residents and visitors, again fueling conversations around LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination.
- November 7, 2000: Opponents of non-discrimination protections in Maine again push through repeal of a non-discrimination law that had been passed by the state legislature and referred to referendum. The law is repealed by a margin of less than 1% – or 4,000 votes.
- November 8, 2005: Finally, after decades of work, Maine voters at last uphold an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination law at the ballot protecting Mainers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, defined in this ordinance as “a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”
Last Updated February 7, 2018