Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage has joined 15 other Republican leaders across the nation in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that companies can fire their workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The case originated in Michigan after a funeral home fired a transgender worker. Petitioners argue that a 1964 Civil Rights Act ban on sex discrimination was intended to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat running for LePage's seat, said the governor is making a political statement that has no bearing in Maine, where workplace protections that include sexual orientation have been part of the Maine Human Rights Act since 2005.
"It's a political statement," Mills said. "He's playing politics with human rights, playing politics with public policy. And Maine law is pretty well settled in that area."
Mills said she is concerned that her Republican gubernatorial opponent, Sean Moody, might seek to weaken LGBT protections in Maine.
At Moody for Governor headquarters, spokeswoman Lauren LePage, Gov. LePage's daughter, said that as a Maine business owner, Moody has never based his company's personnel decisions on sexual orientation or gender identity. Moody owns a chain of auto-body shops.
She said as governor, Moody would enforce all Maine laws, including the Maine Human Rights Act.
At the advocacy group Equality Maine, spokesman Matt Moonen said the governor was out of step with his own state.
"It's certainly disappointing, although not surprising," Moonen said. "I mean, the governor has a pretty clear and consistent LGBT record at this point."