AUGUSTA, Maine -- Maine became the last New England state to protect homosexuals from discrimination yesterday as a law that voters refused to repeal last month went on the books without fanfare.
''We decided to let the law come in quietly," said Betsy Smith of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance.
The day marked the start of a new effort to advise those who gain new protections on what the law does and how to access legal resources, Smith said.
The state Human Rights Commission did not expect a flood of complaints, because the gay rights law is not retroactive.
The bulk of complaints to the commission historically have involved discrimination based on disabilities, followed by gender and whistle-blower cases, Ryan said.
A referendum to repeal a law outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and education was rejected Nov. 8 on a 55-45 percent vote.
The law adds new protections to Maine's Human Rights Act while making Maine the sixth and final state in New England to adopt a law barring discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Maine's law was enacted after a 30-year effort and defeat of two past laws at the polls.
Pat Peard, who has been involved in the effort to enact a law for more than a decade, said she did not expect to see a wave of complaints as the law takes effect.
''The importance of the day is it's finally happened and Maine citizens have an extra measure of protection they didn't have before," said Peard.
Opponents of the law have maintained it's a step toward gay marriage in the state.
Maine has a domestic partner registry, but it also has a statute that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman.