Tuesday May 13, 1997.


AUGUSTA - All but one Midcoast legislator voted for the so-called gay rights bill last week.

Gov. Angus King has said he would sign the measure, which bars discrimination against homosexuals. The bill passed 25-5 in the Senate and 82-62 in the House.

Only Rep. Robert Spear, R-Nobleboro, of the area delegation voted against the measure. He also represents Waldoboro and Jefferson.

Spear said he believes there already are laws in place to cover discrimination against gays.

"I can see problems the other way," Spear said. "We could give those people more rights in some cases."

Reps. Paul Chartrand, D-Rockland, James Skoglund, D-St. George, Christine Savage, it-Union, Paul Volenik, D-Sedgwick, Judy Powers, D-Rockport, and Sens. Chellie Pingree, D-North Haven, and Marge Kilkelly, D-Wiscasset, supported the measure.

"I don't think we want to be the kind of state that believes in discriminating against something as trivial as sexual orientation," Pingree said.

Others said it was time the state had such legal protection for gays.

The law extends protection "to a new class that is really being discriminated against," Chartrand said. "I think it's very fair. It's time we make that a law in the state.

Extending civil rights protection to gays is the right thing to do, according to Pingree.

"This is for giving people equal protection," said Pingree, the Senate Majority Leader.

Everyone should be protected from discrimination, Volenik said.

"I would never vote to discriminate against anyone," he said, "and I would never allow any form of discrimination against any group."

Savage agreed that nobody shou~d be discriminated against.

"I (voted for the bill) not because I am a supporter of homosexual behavior," Savage said. "But l.oppose discrimination."

There have been 10 bills to ban discrimination against homosexuals introduced in the Legislature since 1977. A similar bill was passed by the Legislature in 1993, but was vetoed by then-Gov. John McKernan. McKernan's veto was upheld.

A group called Concerned Maine Families has said they would seek a "people's veto." The people's veto would send the law out to a statewide vote.

The law will make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation in terms of housing, employment, or credit.

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