Civil Liberties

Mild Ones


Everyone knows that bikers are rugged individualists who set themselves apart from society with tattoos, unkempt beards, greasy denim, and well-worn leather. Indeed, the mere mention of mandatory helmet laws will send them into rants concerning the rights of individuals to make their own choices, no matter how dangerous or anti-social they may seem. But when people choose not to associate with bikers, such crypto-libertarianism hits the skids faster than a Harley on an ice-covered highway.

Consider the United Bikers of Maine, a motorcycle enthusiast group that recently asked the legislature to include bikers in the state's Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in accommodations, employment, and housing on grounds of race, gender, age, and disability. "Some would say that we want special rights," Michael Behr, president of the Maine Hells Angels, told the Associated Press. "It has nothing to do with special rights. We want the same rights as everyone else."

That bid failed, as did a similar bill in Arizona. But put-upon bikers can always pack up and move to Minnesota. In 1998, legislators in the Land of 10,000 Lakes recognized the humanity of bikers by making it illegal to discriminate against someone "because of the individual's mode of transportation or the fact that the person has the name of an organization or association on the person's clothing."