1/16/2005

Here's one governor who understands civil rights

The Sun Journal of Maine reports:
Gay rights is a top priority for Gov. John Baldacci this session, taking a back seat only to tax relief, passage of the state budget and a bonds package. Baldacci says he plans to seek passage of a law this year that would outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, housing, credit and access to public places and services.
In all, a dozen municipalities in Maine now have such ordinances.
Baldacci was campaigning for the Maine Senate 20 years ago when he heard a story that catalyzed his conviction for a gay-rights law. He met two men in Bangor. They told him they had hoped to buy a home together, but the bank turned them away. "They were just very embarrassed," Baldacci said recently, and they had no place to turn to for help. "People who are being discriminated against ... there is no recourse for them. There is for everybody else. But not for them. And that's not right."
Although he knew as governor he eventually would press state lawmakers for a gay-rights law, Baldacci said a threat issued last spring spurred him to act. Michael Heath, who heads the Christian Civic League of Maine, had threatened to publicly expose gay and lesbian legislators and political leaders because of his frustration with the Legislature's refusal to consider banning same-sex marriage. Heath was suspended by the League's directors for the threat and rebuked by Baldacci and a host of state lawmakers.
"That may have reignited a fire in me to get it done," Baldacci said.
He acknowledged that the current political climate may hurt his proposal's chances, but he expressed confidence it will pass and withstand subsequent challenges. "I don't know that there's any particular time (that's good) when it comes to issues like this," he said, noting, however, "I think Maine people are very fair people."

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