Rep. Jared Golden is one of the Maine Legislators who repeatedly voted against a state law to punish those who commit FGM/C on the basis that only a federal law was needed, despite testimony from the Maine Prosecutors Association saying the state law was needed. Photo courtesy Golden for Congress.
Augusta – The common refrain from Maine Legislators who opposed passage of a state law to ban female genital mutilation/cutting was that there “was already a federal law” which made a state level law criminalizing the horrific procedure unnecessary.
That changed Tuesday when US District Judge Bernard A. Friedman dismissed charges made against eight defendants in Michigan under that federal law, saying the law is unconstitutional and should be determined by the states.
Among the Maine lawmakers who voted repeatedly against passing the state law making the mutilation of young girls were Democrat Rep. Jared Golden, who was recently declared the winner of the election for Maine’s Second Congressional District after a controversial ranked-choice voting process, Rep. Erin Herbig, who went on to be elected the State Senator from Waldo County, and Rep. Sara Gideon, who is starting her second term as Speaker of the Maine House.
During public testimony, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, a Democrat, testified on behalf of the Maine Prosecutors Association, urging passage of a state law to protect young women at risk of FGM/C saying there was uncertainty in Maine’s prosecutorial community that they could prosecute under the federal law.
But Maloney’s testimony was not enough to persuade House Democrats, who united against House Republicans and a broad bipartisan coalition of nearly all members of the Maine Senate to vote down the FGM/C ban.
Now, it appears, that opposition on the part of those who fought Maine’s FGM/C law has rendered more than 400 Maine girls under the age of 18, and an estimated 1,600 women across Maine who are at risk of FGM/C with no protection under state or federal law.
The effort to ban FGM/C is so widespread globally that the United Nations has established an International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, and 27 states in the USA have banned FGM/C. Maine has even been provided a federal grant to do education and prevention of FGM/C, and the World Health Organization, UNICEF and countless other governmental and human rights groups actively work to make FGM/C illegal.
The sponsor of the Maine bill, Rep. Heather Sirocki, has even been nominated for the Global Woman Award by the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation. Her nomination is supported by FGM/C survivor F.A. Cole, who testified in favor of Sirocki’s bill before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee.
The Michigan case dismissed Tuesday by Judge Friedman involved eight defendants who were charged with mutilating nine victims, four from Michigan, three from Illinois and two from Minnesota.
In the decision, Judge Friedman stated that Congress has no constitutional authority to regulate any activity in this manner unless is represents significant economic or commercial activity, which the FGM/C case did not.
Friedman said, instead, responsibility to regulate or criminalize FGM/C falls to the states, which is the exact opposite of Maine House Democrat claims as they opposed the Maine proposal, and then as they defended their votes on the campaign trail earlier this fall.
Click here to see how many times your State Representative voted against the bill to make FGM/C a crime under Maine law.