Winning 2012’s ballot initiative to legalize same-sex marriage is not enough for pro-gay activists with EqualityMaine. The group is now focusing its advocacy on rural Maine, where voters largely voted against same-sex marriage, in an effort to educate blue collar Mainers about homosexual and transgender issues.
As MaineToday Media’s Michael Shepherd reports:
After winning same-sex marriage in 2012, a Maine gay-rights group is shifting its focus toward gaining acceptance for couples in rural areas that largely opposed it.
The Portland-based advocacy group, EqualityMaine, released a five-year strategic plan recently to outline its overarching goals through 2018, focused on building and educating communities about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues statewide.
It’s the group’s first major step forward since November, when nearly 53 percent of Maine voters backed same-sex marriage. That virtually flipped the result of the 2009 referendum that negated a marriage law the Legislature had passed that year.
EqualityMaine’s plan says the group’s vision is to ensure equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “in the hearts and minds of Maine people and in all areas of the law,” with a focus on those living in rural areas and elderly, young and transgender people.
EqualityMaine’s unveiling of their strategic plan marks the first time that Maine’s same-sex marriage advocates have admitted that their advocacy ambitions stretch beyond legal equality and include changing the way people think and feel about marriage. In short, they desire not simply tolerance of the homosexual life-style, but a broad, public affirmation of it.
Although gay advocates roundly dismissed accusations from religious conservatives that same-sex marriage would eventually allow homosexuality to be taught in schools, Equality Maine is now openly reporting that it intends to spread its influence into Maine’s public education system.
According to its strategic plan, the group will seek to “foster greater understanding, acceptance and support for LGBT, questioning and gender non-conforming youth in Maine schools by providing professional development and guidance to school personnel.”
Another part of their plan calls for further efforts to target youths for re-education: “Build capacity of youth advocacy by strengthening Maine’s existing LGBT, questioning and gender non-conforming youth groups and providing leadership development.”
Equality Maine is a powerful political organization in Maine, boasting a full-time staff of seven and a 17-member board of directors. The EqualityMaine PAC has raised more than $775,000 to bolster its statewide ballot campaigns. Despite having successfully achieved same-sex marriage legalization, it’s clear that the group has no plans of exiting the Maine political scene.