Press Releases

LD 227 Passes both the House and Senate and Awaits Governor’s Signature

April 12, 2024

Augusta, Maine

After weeks of violent threats, disinformation, fear mongering and outright bullying from opposition, we are thrilled to see LD 227 pass in the House and Senate, and believe our Governor will sign this bill into law in due time. After a rocky ride for this and a similar bill through the legislature over the past year, this conclusion couldn’t come at a better time, as more than 40% of states across the country have either banned or attempted to block access to reproductive care, which includes abortions, as well as transgender healthcare for minors. The passing of this bill is due in large part to the strength of pro equality and pro reproductive choice elected officials and a combination of coalition partners who worked together for a common goal. 

Statements from members of Maine’s LGBTQ+ Legislative Coalition

 

The votes this week in both the Maine House and Senate in support of LD 227 show how committed the majority of our elected officials are to protecting Maine’s healthcare providers from hostile attacks from other states, and also illustrates how resilient they are in the face of mountains of disinformation as well as violent threats made against them during the legislative process. The Shield Bill will not only add a necessary layer of safety for providers who offer reproductive and transgender healthcare that is vital to the health and wellbeing of people and families in Maine; it also provides protections for patients who are seeking care. This bill is even more important in the unsettling world we live in today, as more than 40% of states across the country have either banned or attempted to block access to reproductive care, which includes abortions, as well as transgender healthcare for minors. Maine’s lawmakers have shown again that they are steadfast in their ability to withstand the pressures from a loud minority of voices, who unfortunately use ugly rhetoric to push their out-of-touch agenda, and stand up for our personal freedoms and bodily autonomy. EqualityMaine and our coalition of partners are strongly united in seeing this important bill over the finish line, and join a host of other states that also believe in protecting our rights to healthcare. 
Gia Drew (she/her/hers), Executive Director, EqualityMaine

 

The patterns of violence, threats, and extremism that accompanied the work around LD 227 point to why this bill was so essential. In order to protect the gains we’ve made in reproductive and gender-affirming health care, we must protect health care providers as well as our civil institutions and leaders who lead on these important issues. We’re grateful for the hard work of the bill sponsors, committee members, and those legislators and partner organizations who stood together to push back against these threats.
Destie Hohman Sprague (she/her/hers), Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby

 

While the hateful rhetoric and terrorist tactics leading up to the votes point to a worrisome trend in political discourse, we are heartened by the votes to pass LD 227. Maine healthcare providers can now be assured that it is safe for them to provide evidence-based, life-saving care without fear of criminalization by the overreaching hands of out-of-state politicians. Similarly, patients seeking care in Maine can now be assured that it is safe to access the healthcare they need. The majority of Maine lawmakers have demonstrated exceptional fortitude in the face of truly reprehensible behavior, and our state is better for it. The message is clear: Maine won’t let far-right extremism, outlandish misinformation, or even domestic terrorism stand in the way of ensuring all patients can safely access the best healthcare available here.
Bre Danvers-Kidman (they/them/theirs), Executive Director, MaineTransNet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EqualityMaine Statement Regarding LD 1735 - An Act to Safeguard Gender-Affirming Healthcare

LD 1735 would have protected Maine healthcare providers and families seeking healthcare from hostile out-of-state laws and reflected Maine’s long-standing support for essential healthcare and equal rights for transgender people. 

January 30, 2024

Portland, Maine — The fear that many in the trans community feel is real, and we are disheartened that a bill that would safeguard transgender healthcare failed. There are some in the media incorrectly reporting that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were bullied into killing that bill last week. This is not true. In a time of insecurity, where attacks on our community are increasing across the country, we need our allies and the media to be more careful in their reporting. And to be extra clear, gender-affirming healthcare in Maine is still protected by law. 

While the bill’s intention – to provide safety to folks looking for medically necessary care in Maine who come from other states, as well as their providers in Maine – is noble and necessary, the eventual demise of LD 1735 is emblematic of what happens when well-intentioned people try to do too much and with the wrong apparatus. From the outset, we were concerned that this bill might not be the best fit for Maine, but because of the rapidly changing landscape across the country, with more than 22 states banning gender-affirming healthcare for minors, many, including EqualityMaine, tried our best to make it work.

There were attempts to modify the bill prior to a public hearing last spring, then again this fall and winter after it was carried over from the first legislative session, all towards the goal of creating the core healthcare protections we need in Maine. As a work session became imminent over the past few weeks, it became clear that the bill would be vastly different from the one that had a public hearing last May.

So, out of respect for governance best practices, leadership in the Committee decided to vote “ought not to pass” on LD 1735, essentially killing the bill. In the lead-up to the vote and subsequently, there was an avalanche of hateful comments, mostly from conservative national media and their followers, who took hold of this story and manipulated it into a storm of disinformation about what gender-affirming care looks like. And while the barrage of attacks via email, phone calls, and social media was hurled at supportive Democrats on the Committee and the bill’s sponsor, we know their support of our community did not falter.

Sadly, many in the media and elsewhere want to lay blame for the fate of this bill on the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. We categorically believe in our legislative champions and their commitment to the transgender community as well as to protecting access to healthcare that includes gender-affirming healthcare. Progress is often not linear, and we are committed to ongoing efforts to make Maine a safer and more welcoming place for people who need to access necessary healthcare.

This fight is not over – you can count on us.

Signed, 

Gia Drew (she/Her)
Executive Director, EqualityMaine

 

EqualityMaine’s Statement Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Radical and Reckless 303 Creative Ruling

June 30, 2023

PORTLAND – Today, the US Supreme Court ruled for 303 Creative, saying that the First Amendment allows certain businesses open to the public to use “creativity” or “expression” to turn some people away because of who they are.

This ruling ignores long-standing precedent and public norms to say that some businesses can turn some people away because of who they are. This is not what Mainers want. In Maine, we want a state where all people, including LGBTQ+ people, are equally welcomed in public spaces and businesses across the state. We know this because Mainers have historically spoken up and voted in favor of nondiscrimination protections that champion the cause of equality and fairness.

In response to this ruling, EqualityMaine stands united with our community partners, business leaders, legal advocates, inclusive faith communities, immigrant and disability rights groups, and LGBTQ+ stewards in strong, vocal opposition to today’s ruling, and is committed to defending our non-discrimination protections in Maine’s Human Rights Act. Together, we will ensure that this narrow ruling is not used to allow further discrimination on the basis of a customer’s sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or other protected class.

“The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce is incredibly disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision today in 303 Creative. Portland has long been committed to being a welcoming place for LGBTQ individuals, and this decision does not undermine that commitment. While we evaluate the full ramifications of this decision, we will be looking to ways the business community can play a role in affirming non-discriminatory practices. No one should ever feel unwelcome or discriminated against in any business, and we stand affirmatively against any attempts to create hostile environments for members of our community.” – Quincy Hentzel, President and CEO, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“For too long, gender-based discrimination has denied people access to justice. Our judicial system is intended to advance fair, equal and just systems for all; today’s ruling rejects the promise of our Constitution, and allows some businesses to perpetuate gender-based discrimination against our communities. We are profoundly disappointed.” — Destie Hohman Sprague, Executive Director, Maine Women’s Lobby

“For the first time, the Supreme Court has allowed certain businesses to open to the public and discriminate against people in a protected class. This decision is one in a series of recent rulings that make this country less safe and less free for LGBTQ people, women, and people of color. With a United States Supreme Court that is hostile to our most basic rights and freedoms, we will keep fighting to expand the civil rights and liberties of all people under the state constitution so Maine can be a place for all. We look forward to continuing this work alongside our partners and the people of Maine to create a state in which all people can go about their day-to-day lives without facing discrimination because of who they are.” — Carol Garvan, Legal Director, ACLU of Maine 

“The Maine Council of Churches stands with those people of faith whose moral foundation is love of neighbor. We recognize LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, created in the divine image–not a category of neighbors against whom anyone should be allowed to discriminate. We at MCC are appalled at the SCOTUS ruling in 303 Creative because it turns back the clock of justice to a time when injustice prevailed and businesses were allowed to perpetuate bigotry, hatred, and ignorance by denying goods and services to their neighbors. We know that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, but today’s ruling marks a lamentable slide backward into injustice.” — Rev. Jane Field, Executive Director, Maine Council of Churches

“For decades, legal precedent has found that businesses open to the public must treat customers fairly. Regrettably, hate speech has been on the rise in recent years, as groups and individuals have felt more empowered to openly discriminate against people whose very identity they disagree with. In the face of this rise in hatred, we must stand firm in our commitment to nondiscrimination laws (like the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act) which protect immigrants, women, LGBTQIA+ people, racial minorities, and other historically marginalized communities.” — Mufalo Chitam, Executive Director, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

“When a business decides to open its doors to the public, that business should be open to all — this is a core American principle at the heart of how we treat one another. Yet, during a Pride Month when LGBTQ+ people are under attack across the country by hateful policies and violence, six anti-equality justices on the Supreme Court issued a radical and reckless ruling that strikes at that deeply-held American principle. June is Pride Month, and Pride was founded in an uprising, fueled by resistance, resilience, and fighting back. We will resist. We will fight back. Our dignity will not be diminished.” — Gia Drew, Executive Director, EqualityMaine

Signed, 

Gia Drew (she/Her)
Executive Director, EqualityMaine

With

ACLU Maine
Maine Association of Nonprofits
Maine Council of Churches
Maine Equal Justice
Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
Maine Transgender Network
Maine Women’s Lobby
New England Arab American Organization
Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce
 

 

EqualityMaine and LGBTQ+ Coalition Stand Unified as Lawmakers Mark Pride Month

June 15, 2023

PORTLAND — EqualityMaine – the state’s oldest and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization – attended and was recognized during the reading of a Joint Resolution in recognition of Pride Month at the Maine State House this morning.

Legislators read statements from the floor after the reading of the Joint Resolution by the Speaker of the House, Rachel Talbot Ross.

Many shared some of the stories of the LGBTQ+ policy initiatives introduced over the years, beginning with the first bill introduced by the speaker’s father, the Honorable Gerald Talbot, in the 1970s, which expanded the Maine Civil Rights Act.

Floor speeches recognized the many organizations and people that have contributed to the progress of LGBTQ+ Civil Rights in Maine to date.

Additionally, the Maine LGBTQ+ Legislative Coalition, which consists of EqualityMaine, Maine Women’s Lobby, MaineTransNet, ACLU of Maine, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), OUT Maine, Portland Outright, and Maine Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, has been united this legislative session working to defeat as many as 40 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced this year.

It is also working in solidarity to support nearly 30 proactive LGBTQ+ bills that would make the lives of LGBTQ+ Mainers better.

As the nation witnesses the avalanche of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being passed across the country, and sees the real fear and hostility LGBTQ+ people are experiencing in many states, the LGBTQ+ community in Maine has support from the majority of elected officials in Augusta, including Gov. Janet Mills. The Coalition is hopeful that its current legislative goals will be achieved by the end of this session.

Despite the many successes for equity and equality this legislative session in Maine, there are many other initiatives that are important to the Coalition that haven’t crossed the finish line yet.

The Coalition stands resolutely against discrimination because of race, ethnicity, immigration status, and family status. Our community partners and friends, each of which includes LGBTQ+ people, need and deserve support from all of us. When immigrants receive the medical care and coverage they need under MaineCare; when law enforcement is prohibited from profiling; when federal laws applicable to tribal nations and self-governance are restored to the Wabanaki Nations; and when people can support their families with paid leave – then the LGBTQ+ Coalition will find cause to celebrate. Until then we remain united with Maine communities in pursuit of equity and equality for all.

To watch the Pride Proclomation from the Maine House of Representatives, including guest acknowledgements and speeches, click HERE

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