AUGUSTA, Maine — Emergency legislation was submitted Tuesday to allow Amish hunters to wear red items of clothing instead of the standard orange during hunting season.
The Amish faith prohibits the use of bright colors, but Amish hunters are forced to use the bright, fluorescent hunter orange to comply with safety regulations, Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
The bill, LD 1430, An Act to Allow Hunters Whose Religion Prohibits Wearing Hunter Orange Clothing to Instead Wear Red, is in front of the Maine Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.
Thibodeau, who submitted the measure, said Tuesday evening that he decided to sponsor the bill after Rep. Roger Sherman, R-Hodgdon, tried to sponsor a similar bill several years ago but it never got past the Legislative Council, which is made up of five legislative leaders from each party.
He said that the requirement to wear orange clearly conflicts with the Amish’s religious beliefs.
“We should all be free to stick to our religious convictions,” he said.
“Hunting is an integral part of Maine’s culture, and many of our Amish citizens are avid hunters,” he said. “They just want to have the same opportunities as other hunters in Maine.”
He added that he believed he could remedy the situation in the Legislature “while at the same time maintaining high hunting safety standards in Maine.”
Under current law a hunter is required to wear two articles of orange clothing that are visible from all sides — a hat and another article of clothing must cover a major portion of the torso, such as a jacket, vest, coat or poncho.
Thibodeau’s legislation would allow someone to “substitute articles of red clothing for the articles of hunter orange clothing required under [state law] if the person has a religious opposition to the wearing of hunter orange clothing.”
Thibodeau said the bill was well received Tuesday, but that the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee did have some concerns about safety. The senate president said he did not believe safety would be an issue.
“With all of the current laws and the hunter safety classes, we are past the time when people just point a gun at anything that moves and shoot it,” he said.
The panel is expected to vote on LD 1430 soon, he said. Once that happens, the bill will go before the full Legislature. Since it was submitted after the regular deadline, the legislation will require two-thirds support in both the House and Senate to pass.