March 24, 2019
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With marriage equality a success in Maine, now what?

Organizers with EqualityMaine, a Portland-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, have spent the last six months grappling with the question of what to do in the wake of the successful campaign for marriage equality. The non-profit group on Tuesday released a five-year strategic plan detailing several goals that align with its mission to make equality real for LGBT people in Maine through political action, education and community organizing.

Those include making sure the state’s new anti-bullying law is followed so all children feel safe in classrooms, working to ensure transgender people in Maine have equal access to competent health care, and helping aging lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people receive support and care.

“We’ve spent the last six months talking with the LGBT community and key stakeholders, and the message was clear: There’s a lot more work to do,” Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, said Tuesday in a press release.

The nearly 30-year-old group has an active membership in Maine of about 60,000 people, according to communications director Ian Grady. Over the years, EqualityMaine has worked on many issues besides marriage, he said, including same-sex adoption and passing the state’s non-discrimination law. This history should allow it to move more smoothly into the post-same-sex marriage age than has been the case with organizations in other states.

“It’s never been just about marriage. Marriage is incredibly important, but we’re excited to keep working on all these other issues,” Grady said. “What we’ve seen in other states is that this transition from marriage work to other work can be challenging — but we’re confident and excited because we’ve never been just a marriage operation.”

He said that EqualityMaine has recently begun doing a grassroots fundraising campaign for its new work, with an anonymous Maine donor kicking in $25,000 if the group can raise an equal amount of money. The group also will keep its Brewer office open in an effort to foster ties with people all over the state, including Maine’s many rural communities.

“We are very eager to take the experience and energy from the marriage campaign and put that to improving the lives of every single LGBT Mainer,” Grady said.

That’s a goal that doesn’t make everyone in the state happy. Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine, said Tuesday that his organization does not support EqualityMaine’s goals.

“The Christian Civic League has a fundamental difference with individuals and organizations who believe gender determination is both random and self-defined; therefore, we believe it is important to respectfully advocate for traditional family values which would include distinct and relevant differences between the sexes,” he wrote in an email sent to the Bangor Daily News. “We do not believe the majority of Mainers are ready to see men dressed as females sharing the women’s locker room. Neither do we believe most Mainers are prepared to totally ignore the religious liberties of its citizens who do not embrace these redefinitions of gender and marriage.”

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