Marriage Equality: Where Does Maine Stand?
Portland, Maine. The original capital of Maine (it was changed to Augusta in 1832). With the largest port in the entire state of Maine, home to the Arts District with attractions such as the Portland Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum of Maine. Also home to the Portland Sea Dogs (baseball) and the Maine Mariners (hockey). You can catch these teams at the state-of-the-art Portland Sports Complex.
But did you know that Portland received an 86 (out of 100) from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index? From non-discrimination laws, to municipal services, to fair enforcement of laws, to the relationship the city has with the LGBTQ community, Portland is definitely on the right track. Quick fact: Did you know that Portland was the first city in Maine to remove anti-transgender health care language from the health plan offered to city employees?
It hasn’t always been this way. There’s been a long road to get to this point, and there’s still more work to do (for example, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have prevented conversion therapy for kids), but for the most part, Portland, Maine has become a great place for LGBTQ+ folks (and their families!) to settle.
Maine was on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon in the early 1990s when the Maine Civil Rights Act was amended to protect gays and lesbians from hate crimes. A few years later came hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, to place them on equal footing when a partner was hospitalized. Can you imagine not being able to visit your life partner in the hospital merely because you both are of the same sex??!!
In 2001, Maine took the bold step of requiring Maine insurance companies to offer the option of domestic partnership coverage to employers who wanted to provide it. Three years later came a statewide domestic partnership law, allowing gay and lesbian couples to enjoy some (but not all) of the benefits of marriage.
But that wasn’t enough for the good citizens of Maine. In 2009, the Maine Freedom to Marry Coalition campaigned to win the right for same-sex couples to marry. And marriage equality legislation was signed into law. Unfortunately, the law was only in place for a short time and was overturned by a people’s veto. In 2012, Maine became the first state to implement through a ballot measure the right of same-sex couples to marry. This is notable because in other states, the right to marry came about through legislative or court action and was not a decision made directly by the voters. Obergefell, the United States Supreme Court decision that confirmed that the fundamental right to marry applies to same-sex couples, came a few years later.
In terms of surrogacy, the laws here are gay-friendly and a birth order (similar to a pre-birth order) can be filed on behalf of same-sex intended parents, single intended parents and different-sex intended parents. Our friends at EqualityMaine worked with their partners to get the Maine Parentage Act passed. The Maine Parentage Act contains a comprehensive—and LGBTQ+ friendly—update to Maine’s family laws which establish that anyone can become a parent in Maine through surrogacy and otherwise. Way to go, Maine!
Even though there are still problems, many Mainers from the LGBTQ+ community to cis-gendered straight residents (and everyone in between) have worked hard for full equality for everyone. The gears of change can sometimes be slow, and Maine is not perfect by a long run, but we are happy to be on the right side of history and are also happy to benefit from the full participation of our LGBTQ+ friends in all aspects of life here in Maine.