A New York-based advocacy group is using social media to pressure U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to withdraw support for a workplace anti-discrimination bill he is co-sponsoring.

Queer Nation New York, a group run by a dozen volunteers dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community, says a sweeping religious exemption in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would allow religious-affiliated employers to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

Instead, Queer Nation wants Michaud and Congress to pass a comprehensive bill giving LGBT people all of the rights prescribed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including equal rights in housing, education, credit and federally funded programs. “The step-by-step approach simply hasn’t worked,” Queer Nation member Duncan Osborne said in an interview Thursday.

The group is using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to criticize Michaud and other House Democrats and calls on them to drop support for what it portrays as a half-measure.

A spokesman for Michaud said Thursday the congressman supports comprehensive civil rights, but sees the workplace anti-discrimination bill as the best opportunity to extend protections to LGBT people. Dan Rafter said Michaud supports an effort to narrow the religious exemption, but does not plan to withdraw his support for ENDA.

“Rep. Michaud absolutely supports an omnibus civil rights bill,” Rafter said. “He continues to support ENDA with a narrower religious exemption because it is the bill that has been passed by the Senate and, at least right now, provides the best opportunity to extend workplace protections to LGBT people.”


The social media campaign has refocused attention on Michaud’s stand on equality issues as a candidate for governor. Michaud could become the nation’s first openly gay person to be elected governor if he defeats incumbent Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, and independent Eliot Cutler.

Cutler has criticized Michaud in the past for voting as a state lawmaker in the 1980s against bills that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. Cutler repeated that criticism in a statement Thursday, saying he is a lifelong supporter of extending the protection of the Maine Human Rights Act to LGBT people.

Cutler said he is in favor of all measures — including incremental steps — that extend equal rights to any citizen “and I do not believe that religious beliefs entitle anyone to deny those measures of equality to any other citizen.”

LePage’s campaign did not respond to emails seeking comment on ENDA.

Randy Billings — 791-6346

[email protected]

Twitter: @randybillings

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