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Policing, Prisons, & Criminal Justice | Discriminatory Treatment | Maine

Maine Discriminatory Treatment Q&A

Does Maine have an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination?

Yes. On November 8, 2005, Maine voters agreed to keep in place a law, LD 1196, “An Act to Extend Civil Rights Protections to All People Regardless of Sexual Orientation”, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in the spring of 2005. The law went into effect December 28, 2005.

This marks the end of a long struggle in Maine to achieve legal protections for LGBT people. In November 1995, Maine voters rejected an attempt to limit the protected classes to those already included within the non-discrimination law. In May 1997, Maine approved an anti-discrimination law based on sexual orientation, but this law was repealed in a special election in February 1998. Then in November 2000, by the smallest of margins, Maine voters failed to ratify a second anti-discrimination law that had been approved by the legislature.

The law provides protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation which is defined as “… a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression” (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).

Does it also protect people perceived of as LGBT?

Yes. The non-discrimination law specifically covers people who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Is it legal for the police to tell me to “move along” from public areas?

Not necessarily. If the area is public and not posted as having particular hours, you generally have a right to be there as long as you are engaged in lawful activity. Public places belong to everyone. Even if police officers want to deter crime, or suspect some kind of unlawful intent, they have no general right to request people to move from one place to another unless there is unlawful conduct (Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 126 (1958); State v. Aucoin, 278 A.2d 395, 397 (Me. 1971)(striking down former version of Portland’s loitering ordinance)).

What are the general rules about interaction with police?

The presence of individuals who appear to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender—whether because such individuals are displaying symbols such as a rainbow flag or pink triangle or for any other reason—should not trigger any special scrutiny by a police officer, other than a concern for the safety and well-being of those persons that the officer would have for any other park or rest area patron.

Police may of course approach a person, and make inquiries, but even if a person has been convicted of a past offense, or fails to respond, or responds in a way which does not satisfy the officer, that alone is not grounds for the person to be arrested.

Brief intrusions upon a person are permitted if an officer can say why he or she is concerned and that concern is reasonable. For example, if an officer is concerned about someone’s safety, or suspects the person may have committed a crime, or suspects the person has committed a traffic infraction, then a stop is reasonable (State v. Gulick, 759 A.2d 1085 (Me. 2007), *2; State v. Connors, 734 A.2d 195 (Me. 1999)(investigatory stop justified when officer has articulable suspicion of civil violation or criminal activity and such suspicion is objectively reasonable in the totality of circumstances)).

An arrest can only occur upon “probable cause” that a crime has been committed (State v. Boylan, 665 A.2d 1016 (Me. 1995)(probable cause to arrest where officer has reasonably trustworthy information that would warrant an ordinarily prudent and cautious officer to believe the subject did commit or was committing a crime).  See also Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16 (1968)).

What can I do if I believe I have been improperly treated by the police?

Complaints may be made to any individual police department for matters concerning its officers, and complaints to the Maine State Police may be made to the commanding officer of the alleged harasser. The contact person is the Director of Internal Affairs at (207) 624-7290. The State Police have a toll-free number at (800) 452-4664. The complaint should specify the name or badge number of the officer, and state whether the complaint is for actual misconduct, harassment or discrimination.

In some cases, an individual may decide to pursue a lawsuit—because of injuries, improper detainment, or for some other reason. These matters are highly specialized, and GLAD can provide you with attorney referrals. People can also register serious complaints with the Attorney General’s Office, Investigations Unit at (207) 626-8800.